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Apr 9, 2002 03:53 PM

Absolute Best Risotto You Will EVER Eat: Toasted Pistachio Gorgonzola Dolce

  • j

Immodestly this is the best risotto that I have ever eaten. I have had risotto at Al Soriso and Dal Pescatore (Michelin three stars), Battebecco and Bitone (one stars in Bologna), da Fiore (one star in Venezia) as well as at least a half dozen more starred restaurants in Italy. I also won a major cooking contest with it several years ago.

I post this because of an earlier discussion about "pressure cooker" risotto and the current risotto discussion. For those on this board who are into cooking make this EXACTLY the way I describe. Don't make it if you CHANGE ANYTHING. This is expensive and somewhat time consuming but it will be the most intensely flavorful dish of its kind that you will ever eat. Again, make absolutely certain that you use EXACTLY the ingredients that I describe. As much as anything this is a technique dish but when you get it down you will absolutely WOW your friends or customers.


From Joe Heflin

1 pound vialone nano arborio rice (carneroli is
acceptible as substitution)
1/4 cup olive oil (as good as you can find, i.e. Badia
Coltibuono, Castello di Ama, etc.)
one sweet onion (Vidalia, Texas Sweet, etc.) finely
chopped to equal one cup
1 1/2 cups chardonnay (I use Beringer or a wine at
least equal to this-NOT a cheap wine.)
2 cups chicken stock (REAL chicken stock, not from a
can or a cube)(frozen chicken stock that sells for
$3.99 for 8 ozs. is OK) Use WARM chicken stock
that you keep heated in a separate pot over
low heat.
7/8 pound Gorgonzola DOLCE (NOTE: You MUST use the
dolce, no other gorgonzola will do. Don't make
this if you can't find it!!!) The gorgonzola
should be broken up into pieces or one to two
inch soft chunks that have sat at room temperature
for an hour or more.
1/2 pound unsalted butter (Pleugra, Kate's, European,
absolute best you can find.) I slice the butter one
inch thick and let the slices sit at room tempera-
ture for at least an hour.
1/2 cup toasted (in oven for 3-4 minutes at 325 degrees)
pistachios, chopped that you have shelled yourself.
Use everything, chopped nut and "dust" but remember
you want these for crunch as well as flavor. I
might even use a bit more than this. Use unsalted
10 ozs. Reggiano Parmegiano grated which will equal
about three cups in volume. Grate this
yourself from the best and most moist brick you can
I use an All Clad 3 1/2 quart pan and a wooden spoon with a flat side for stirring. In the sauce pan over medium to medium high heat (6 to 7 on a scale of 10) heat olive oil. Add onions until they sweat (several minutes). Add rice and toast stirring constantly as it cooks for two minutes or so. Add wine and cook until completely reduced stirring frequently. When the wine has completely disappeared start adding stock one ladle at a time (about 2/3 cup) and cook stirring constantly until the rice absorbs the stock. Repeat until all of the stock is absorbed. After 8 or 9 minutes of this add the gorgonzola dolce. Continue to stir the cheese into the mixture for another four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter, toasted pistachios and reggiano. Gently stir all together thororughly.

Serve by itself in a large white plate or pasta bowl.
This is extremely filling and very intensely flavored. The above recipe will serve at least eight because of this. Again do NOT make this if you cannot find EXACTLY the ingredients called for.

This is risotto as an art.

Please post on here your results if you make it EXACTLY as I state. I am sorry to be so overbearing but I have friends who try to take shortcuts and they don't understand why "mountain" gorgonzola doesn't have the sweetness or even the creamy texture of dolce or grana tastes different than reggiano. All arborio rice is not the same. If you take the time and trouble this is a dish that could be served at a three Michelin starred restaurant.

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  1. Do you need to use All-Clad?

    31 Replies
    1. re: Aaron D

      An excellent question. Also, my grocer frequently marks the $3.99/cup stock down to $3.49/cup. May I buy the stock on sale, or would that render this dish suitable only for, say, a two-star restaurant?

      1. re: Grace
        felix the dog

        I can't wait for the Toasted Pistachio Gorgonzola Dolce Nazi restaurant to open up.

        1. re: felix the dog

          Two, perhaps three facetious responses to a serious post for a recipe that won $10,000 and a trip to Italy. I'm sorry that I placed it here since no one seems to appreciate it. I'd wanted to share it with this group for my two years of extensive posting on ChowHound. My insistence on doing it correctly is falling on deaf ears. People are going to make my recipe the way they want to-not the way it should be made. For those who take the time and trouble to make it correctly thank you. Again, please post on here your reaction to it.
          I learned a lesson today.

          1. re: Joe H.

            Aww, cheer up, we're teasing you cuz you're one of the pack!

            (altho, I AM kinda scared to try it.... :) )

            1. re: galleygirl

              A beautiful posting. A recipe that must be tried. When one puts so much love, attention and detail into one's work and shares it so generously, there need be no pretense of indulgence for experimentation or compromise.

              And now - a question I have carried with me for more than dozen years. A New Years celebration in Milan included a rasberry champagne risotto - a specialty I was told of the region. I have never been able to find a recipe or even approximate the dish in my many experiments. Any suggestions?

              I am obliged.
              With thanks,

              1. re: AZ

                I couldn't find a raspberry champagne risotto recipe for you, but I did find one with strawberries in this incredible online recipe collection. Perhaps you could substitute raspberries using the proportions listed in this recipe.

                Here's the link:


                1. re: Nancy Berry


                  That is just too kind. I can't wait to try it. Let the weekend begin!



                2. re: AZ

                  On page 300 of the book "Risotto" is a recipe for champagne risotto. It specifies dry champagne. 4 1/2 cups chicken stock (basic broth in the book), 3 tblsp. butter, 1 tblsp minced onion, 1 1/2 c arborio, 1 1/4 c dry Champagne, 1/4 cup light cream, fresh parsley. Saute onion in butter, add rice, then 1 c champagne, then 1/2 c of broth at time, At end add remaining champagne, cream and parsley.
                  It would be just a guess for when to add the raspberries because I don't know the texture of the dish you had. But as a first attempt I would take a cup or so of fresh raspberries and saute them in a tbsp of butter for a minute or so and then add them at the end gently folding them in. Just a guess.
                  There was a great restaurant in Milan called La Scarletta in the late '80's and early '90's that was considered one of the best in the city. They had truly outstanding and creative food including phenominally original risotto that they were known for. But this is just a long shot guess since it could have been any of a number of places.

                  1. re: Joe H.


                    Thank you. I see my right arm will be growing larger with risotto experiments in my near future.

                    My recollection of the restaurant in Milan is a bit dream like. It was New Years Day. Milan cold. The stone buildings by themselves can chill you to the bone.

                    We wandered the streets around the Galleria. Watched a brass band assemble at a leisurely pace and then perform. We were grateful for our Borsalino hats and heavy coats.

                    We passed a small restaurant. In earlier walks we had normally seen it crowded to the gills. It was early afternoon and there were a few (perhaps two) empty tables we could see when we peered into the window. A gentleman, who may have been the owner, or a host, or a friend of the owner, or someone trying to help us, waved us at one of the tables.

                    When we started to open the menus, a waiter shook his head no. It is New Years. Special risotto. Just for today.

                    We have always found in Italy that the specials are special - not surplus from the day before or a lower cost ingrediant. Still, we could not imagine what lay in store.

                    I carry no memory of the name of the restaurant. But if I wandered the streets in Milan again, I know I could find the building. The buildings in Italy do not change.

                    I haven't come across the champagne and raspberry risotto again. Perhaps, thanks to your suggestions, I will create something close to this memory.



                    1. re: AZ

                      Thanks for sharing, AZ. Great story!

              2. re: Joe H.
                Wendy Leonard

                I think we're all dying to try it. You're being teased because you WERE pretty authoritarian, not because we don't appreciate your sharing the recipe. Perhaps if you'd said, hey guys, this recipe won't taste the same if you change ANYTHING, it would have had a friendlier tone. It was hard to focus on the recipe.

                1. re: Wendy Leonard

                  I apologize because I was intentionally overbearing but friends of mine have made this and it didn't taste the same or have the same texture. It really is hard to nail the texture but I've probably made this (or some kind of risotto) 200 to 300 times over the years. I know all of the mistakes that I and they made and so I tried to be emphatic in how it should be done. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've had correctly made or intensely flavored risotto in an American restaurant and, truthfully, most in Italy take shortcuts. I WAS too strong and for that I'm sorry. But Dal Pescatore makes a risotto milanesa with saffron that she grows herself! Can you imagine what that tastes like? With stock from chickens she raises herself! Simple milanesa but incredible depth of flavor.

                  I only mentioned the Michelin restaurants to give credibility to this since few if anyone on this board know me or what my values are. I did come off as arrogant and, again, I did not mean to. I am sorry. But this is a great dish when done correctly by anyone's standards or level of expectations.

                  I hope some on this board do make it. My original intention was only to share the pleasure of enjoying it with those on this board. For all of my hyperbole I really haven't exaggerated how good it is.

                  1. re: Joe H.

                    Not being on the hot seat, I was amused by the irony of the initial responses to your recipe, thinking:

                    How many times have people who share recipes been accused of "leaving out an ingredient," desiring to keep others from replicating the dish. What, if anything, that is left out are some of the techniques that an experienced cook takes for granted and a cook less experienced with that particular kind of food might not know. Clearly, you did not want that to happen.

                    Thanks for the recipe, I'll give it a try

                    1. re: Joe H.

                      "I only mentioned the Michelin restaurants to give credibility to this since few if anyone on this board know me or what my values are."

                      Joe H., we've been following your posts from burgers to BBQ, cream pie, boiled peanuts, your annual cross country business trip and beyond all around the world (I remember di Vinus if ever I make it to Florence).

                      And if I have mixed you up with another Joe H. then my apologies to both of you.


                      PS - Congratulations on winning the prize.

                      1. re: wrayb

                        PPS: thanks for all the precision in the recipe.

                        I don't know when I might be able to assemble the ingredients for your recipe but your precision will help me garner some measure of success on some more mundane risoto formulas.

                          1. re: wrayb

                            Hey Joe, don't let the assholes get you down. I intend to make this recipe this weekend. I'll post my reaction next week. Keep on posting, I enjoy the information you provide and your style of presentation.

                          2. re: Joe H.

                            Joe - I've made risotto before and it's always been delicious. I guess I have thought of it as basically a homey Mama's dish that is something a child could enjoy, yet that did have the potential for almost unlimited subtlety depending on one's access, or lack of access, to exquisite ingredients.

                            I try to use good ingredients and I always use Italian arborio rice, good broth, good wine, but not great wine. I think my favorite so far is porcini mushroom risotto made with dried mushrooms. But, I've got a question for you about texture. My understanding is that risotto should be kind of soupy, the individual grains of rice not really coalescing into one cereal-like mass, but separated by the liquid, which is about the thickness of a cream sauce that just coats the spoon and you can draw a line through with your finger and have it remain. So, if you pour the risotto in a bowl it would settle, rather then stay in a mound like mashed potatoes. I don't like it to be very cohesive or firm, yet I feel the individual grains should still be a little al dente. I guess I'm saying I think I see pictures of a lot of risottos that look like they may be overcooked and too gummy and mushy.

                            Would you talk a bit about the consistency of the perfect risotto, what it looks like when it is exactly done and not underdone or overdone.

                            1. re: Joe H.

                              No need for an apology. I tease my friends and family who thank me for a recipe and tell me they loved it.....but subtituted nearly every ingredient and came up with a totally different dish. I'm going to the store today and will look for exactly these ingredients to try it myself. I appeciate you sharing this, as well as the attention to detail. Risotto requires a lot of technique, so you need to be detailed if you want your friends to make this dish and have it come out the way it is intended. If you substitute ingredients and just wing'd probably end up wondering what was so special about this award winning recipe.

                          3. re: Joe H.

                            Ditto, galleygirl...and thanks for saying maybe three. My comment was only half-facetious. I found your exactitude a bit amusing because my wife so often tires of my own usually scrupulous attention to detail when trying a new--particularly a new and elaborate--recipe for the first time. OF COURSE, I would follow your recipe. I guess I just like to think that most 'hounds are happily acquainted with, for example, the distinction between Mountain and Dolce Gorgonzola.

                            Your recipe does sound trememdous, and I'm sure at the very least, if anyone does stray from your recipe, that they will know who is to blame if it doesn't turn out. Cheer up and relax. I will certainly let you know when I am ready to attempt (or rather after I have attempted) this dish. Thanks for sharing.

                            1. re: Joe H.

                              I can't wait to try this dish (though I need to make sure that I set aside a lot of time to work out afterwards). Thanks for the great recipe.

                              I understand why you're exacting. I make a chocolate souffle cake with Valrhona chocolate. When people ask for the recipe and substitute Nestle's chocolate chips for the Valhrona, they get upset. It can be very frustrating. Trust me, I won't change a thing except that I'll use a Le Crueset instead of an All-clad.

                              1. re: Jennifer J

                                Thanks for understanding and tolerating my obsessiveness, Jennifer.

                              2. re: Joe H.

                                I'm also militant about certain recipes but you've got to expect this type of response if you put in rigid guidelines.

                                1. re: Joe H.

                                  Joe H., your recipe is a keeper.

                                  But felix the dog? Your post was side-splitting.

                                  1. re: Joe H.

                                    Yea, it's a tough crowd around here. I've learned that the hard way too. But some kind and helpful folks as well. I for one will try to make this as you say sometime.

                                    1. re: scuzzo

                                      I was just in Amsterdam for my business and found a "slow food" cheese shop that an incredible bleu cheese: "bleu de Wolvega." This is an artisinal cheese that has a very limited distribution-it does not come into the U. S and is only sold in a handful of shops in Holland. I bought a kilo or so of it and brought it back packed in cryovac. When we opened it, wow! it is the best bleu cheese that I have ever had! Soft, smelly and extremely creamy. Now I am absolutely obsessed with buying more of it and presenting it before a dinner and then, later, as the feature of a risotto made with it. I'm also thinking of doing a "Bleu de Wolvega" dinner which would also incorporate a bleu cheese sauce for a steak as well as a major component of mashed potatoes. Still, this is a flavor and a texture that I think will do very well with risotto.

                                      All I have to do is travel back to Amsterdam and buy more of it now!!!! (It is 100% unavailable in the U. S.). That WILL happen. I just have to be patient until then.

                                      1. re: Joe H

                                        Have you tried cambozola yet? Just wondering.

                                        1. re: Joebob

                                          I haven't tried it but a friend did when he couldn't find dolce. He said the risotto was "ok" but not nearly as good as it was with the dolce.

                                        2. re: Joe H

                                          I am leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow. Can you tell me name or address of cheese shop? Thanks v much.

                                      2. re: Joe H.

                                        This reply is a few years late, but I have an apron given to me by one of my daughters that states, "I don't need a recipe...I'M ITALIAN." Precision in cooking is French, not Italian. Precision in baking is another story because baking is chemistry.

                                        BTW, i miei antenati non erano italiani.

                                  2. re: Aaron D

                                    No. It's just the pan that I'm use to using. But I would use a heavier sauce pan of about 3 to 4 quarts.

                                  3. Joe, maybe if I was as overbearing as you when giving people recipes they wouldn't say later that theirs wasn't as good as mine, as others have observed. And I don't hold back on ingredients or even observations on technique that I think contributes to the success of a dish! I make a gorgonzola/pistachio risotto that is darned good, but reading through your recipe I knew that yours is better. The adjustments I need to make are simple but I know the payoff will be big. Interestingly, while your tone initially put me off, it's also what kept me reading! What were you going to insist on next? That I stir standing on one foot facing north? By the end I'd gotten over being annoyed and decided I must try your way. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the quality of the stock making a difference in ANY risotto, but I'll still use canned broth in a pinch when I've got a jones for risotto and that's all that's easily at hand. Anyway, I'll be trying your recipe (when I've "earned" the calories!) and that's the point. Thanks.

                                    1. Joe,

                                      3 points / questions:

                                      (1) THANKS for the great recipe! I appreciate you taking the time to post. I have no problem with your "tone" - people need to lighten up.

                                      (2) Can you please provide a good recipe for making homemade chicken stock? I would very much like to see your ideas.

                                      (3) I am going to Italy this December (right after Christmas). I have bought Fred Plotkin's book "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" and plan to follow many of his restaurant suggestions. Are you familiar with the book? If so, do you agree with his recommendations? Finally, could you provide me with some of your can't miss restaurants for Rome, Florence, Siena, Assissi, or Milan?

                                      Again, thanks for the great recipe. I would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide me.

                                      Have a great day!


                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Jeff Rose

                                        I have used it but there are several others that I find myself more attracted to since they are updated annually. Both are superb and suppliment Michelin.
                                        1. Gambero Rosso which is
                                        This is a definitive source for Italian restaurants as well as the best enotecas, hotels, gourmet shops, markets, etc. It is superb. They also publish several books. Unfortunately only one of them (for Rome) is in English. Yet they give numerical ratings for all of the restaurants and have a top list which they call "Tre Forchettes) or three forks.
                                        2. La Guida d'italia 2000 whose link is below. This is similar to Gault Millaut (sp?)as well as Gambero Rosso and also assigns numerical ratings to restaurants throughout Italian. It is in Italian but again, you can use the numbers.

                                        Along with Michelin you will pretty well have the country covered and can compare three opinions (either listings, stars, forks or numerical ratings) for a restaurant.

                                        Plotkin provides detail. But there are other books that also provide detail such as Capalbo's The Food Lover's Companion To Tuscany. Truthfully there must be at least seven or eight books written by individuals who have literally eaten their way around Italy. I would just go up to Barnes and Noble or B. Dalton and spend some time looking through what you kind find. There's a lot.

                                        I've been to about half of the currently listed "Tre Forchettes" in Gambero Rosso and Dal Pescatore and Al Soriso two of the three Michelin three stars. I have also been to numerous other excellent restaurants from Rome north.

                                        Dal Pescatore is the restaurant John Mariani called "The Best Restaurant In The World" in Esquire three or four years ago. It is an experience that you should go out of your way to have. It is in a crossroads town 10 miles or so from Mantova on a road that passes through farmland. The entrance to its courtyard is on the side of a building and easily missed. When you pull into the courtyard you'll note chicken feathers everywhere. In fact when I came back to my car four hours later I had left a window open several inches (it was a hot day) and the front seat had a fine layer of them covering it! There are eight four seat tables in the restaurant and the couple who own it are absolutely obsessed with even the smallest detail. The wife is the perfectionist chef and the husband is the perfectionist host and sommolier. They are both superb at what they do. If you go order the tasting menu (it's about 100 EUR) and trust what shows up.
                                        Le Calandre is a Michelin three star that has its own website, There are many pictures plus the current menu and prices. This may be the best restaurant in Italy right now; if not it's certainly one of the most creative.
                                        Gambero Rosso (the restaurant, no connection with the guidebooks) was rated highest by both the Wine Spectator (for food about four or five years ago) and Tre Forchettes this past year. It is on the coast near Livorno and absolutely superb. Two stars but for food it should have three.
                                        La Pergola atop the Rome Hilton is a Michelin two star and a Tre Forchette. It is expensive and superb.
                                        Vissani, about 75 miles north of Rome, I believe is the most expensive restaurant in Italy with a prix fixe of about 150 EUR. It has two stars, is a Tre Forchette and has the highest food rating of 19 (out of 20) in La Guida d'italia. It also has a number of detractors who feel it is grossly overpriced. It's chef/owner is a celebrity and well known. One of the primary criticisms I feel is justified. The dining room is very "stiff" lacking a real friendliness. Perhaps too formal.
                                        Some of the best meals in Italy are ones you discover by accident knowing nothing about the restaurants only having a feeling when you walk or drive by and look in the window. When you've discovered it yourself it makes it even more special. For me di Vinus on the "other" side of the Arno in Florence is like that. (about a five or six block walk from the Excelsior or the Grand). I've posted about this in the past.
                                        Any stock made from scratch is good. I actually like most of Emeril's. In fact his beef stock if cooked down for 12-15 hours (from 12 quarts to 1 1/2) is incredible. Of course any good beef stock cooked down like this should be!
                                        Again, I didn't mean to be so authoritarian in the original post but I have several friends who have made my risotto and it didn't taste like mine or lacked the texture. Reasons have varied from generic arborio to mountain gorgonzola to margarine to reggiano that sat already shredded (by the store) in a refrigerator for a month. The "art" of making this is also in knowing when to add more stock and that almost has to be learned by trial and error. I've actually watched risotto be made in several excellent restaurants in Italy (Battibecco in Bologna) and noted everything from the chef will sometimes push the pan back and forth as well as stir. It's really kind of hard to nail the texture (i.e. each kernal of rice can be distinguished within the overall creaminess) but when I compared my risottos that turned out with those that were not as good I could ususally trace differences in my style as well as the ingredients.
                                        Last comment about chicken stock: I had my first colonoscopy last year! (God, what a topic for now!!) But, in preparing for it I bought six different brands of canned, frozen and packaged stock and broth. I tasted all of them, sometimes one spoon after another. (Trust me I dreaded this exam and the thought of doing a broth sampling allowed me to endure the preparation.
                                        )The difference in taste was amazing. Really amazing. Some were much milder than others. The frozen stock whose name I don't remember which is why I said $3.99 is actually very mild. But this lets the flavor of the cheese through. Health Valley was much stronger. Point is that different styles of stock serve different purposes. If I don't make my own stock I'll go to a local store (Sutton Place Gourmet) where they have real homemade stocks from their own kitchen for sale. But these tend to be somewhat mild which is fine for this.

                                        Link: http://www.guidaespresso.espressoedit...

                                        1. re: Joe H.


                                          Thanks for the wealth of information. I will definitely be following up on your excellent suggestions. Talk about taking time and going out of your way to answer someone's request for help!

                                          I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Italy (my first). I will be focusing in on the food (along with the art and churches/cathedrals). Your information will be a huge help to me.

                                          Thanks again for everything!


                                          1. re: Jeff Rose

                                            Thanks, Jeff. Remember, wine is about half the American price when you buy it there. And don't hesitate to bring back a number of bottles. Also, if you're into wine try touring some of the Tuscan wineries. In December and January they will make the time to see you at many of them. Just fax them first.

                                            1. re: Joe H.


                                              You are reading my mind! I am a wine "newbie" but am definitely planning on taking full advantage of the wine opportunities in Italy. As a wine newcomer, the two first types of wine I have come to appreciate are Chianti and Australian Shiraz. I am really looking forward to trying the full range of Italian offerings.

                                              I am also planning on bringing back several bottles. Do you advocate bringing them back with you or mailing them home?

                                              Again, thanks.


                                              1. re: Jeff Rose

                                                Bring them back with you but pack them safely, wrapped in towels or clothes you've worn.

                                      2. Jim, I don't think your recipe is all that great. I took all the ingredients like you specified and combined them all in my new pressure cooker. I opened things up 12 minutes later and it really didn't taste all that great. I can't figure out what I did wrong, maybe I had the pressure to high...
                                        Just kidding, thanks for the excellent recipe. I'll have to give it a try after some precision shopping missions.

                                        1. I respect your love of great food prepared to exacting standards. Far to many times have I experienced a mound of sticky rice passed off as "risotto" in fine restaurants.Unfortunately your detailed directions and insistance on quality ingredients will fall on mostly deaf ears. However, those that truly appreciate well prepared food will heed your advice to the fullest and experience a true culinary treat.I, for one, would enjoy a few more of your receipes!!!!!!