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Kale and Pancetta Risotto

Hello, it’s me again trying to convince you to make risotto at home. Truth is, this kale and pancetta risotto recipe was supposed to be saved for Fall. It’s hearty, comforting, and the earthy flavors leans perfectly to those crisper months. After testing, filming, and shooting it I couldn’t wait to share it. This super creamy risotto is salty from the rendered pancetta, earthy and nutty from the kale and parmesan, and like my Mushroom Risotto recipe doesn’t require an arm workout.

So why is risotto such a touchy recipe? Like I mentioned in my mushroom risotto recipe, everyone has an opinion on the proper way to make it. In fact after posting the video on Tik Tok is was clear…EVERYONE HAS AN OPION. You need to add wine. It needs to be constantly stirred. You shouldn’t stir at all. While there is truth in some of these statements, there are a few successful ways to make risotto. Just keep the below points in mind.

  • Risotto should be creamy, not gluey. That gluey consistency can actually come from over mixing. When placed on a plate or bowl it should be loose, spread a little, but not run off the plate.
  • The rice should be cooked al dente, not mushy or soggy.
  • Cheese, cream, and pre-cooked vegetables or protein should be added at the last few minutes.

If you haven’t tried making risotto at home because you don’t know where to start or it seems overly complicated, this is a great place to start.

dino kale

What You’ll Need for Kale and Pancetta Risotto

  • Arborio Rice– Or Carnaroli, although that variety is harder to come by. Unfortunately the long grain rice you have chilling in your pantry wont work for this recipe. Different varieties of rice absorbs liquid differently, have a different starch level, and in the end just wont yield the same results. Unlike their long grain relatives, you do not rinse the rice. Rinsing loose some of the starch necessary to making this dish super creamy.
  • Broth – I chose beef broth here because it complements the pancetta.
  • Pancetta – Unless you go to a specialty market pancetta will most likely be found near the deli counter or by the fresh mozzarella sold in 4oz pre cubed packs. Whether you get thick or thin small cut or cubes will change the amount of time you render in the beginning.
  • Shallot – I love substituting onions for shallots when appropriate. Shallots are sweeter and have a less pungent taste than a white onion, which works well for this recipe.
  • Garlic – Fresh only, as always.
  • Dino Kale – Or other known as Lacinato kale. Dino kale has a deeper more earthy flavor than traditional curly kale. If you don’t like kale trust me try this one. However if you cant find dino kale it’s okay to substitute with curly kale. Prep the kale by removing the inner stem, and giving it a rough chop.
  • Thyme – Pulled off the steam.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated.
  • Optional Wine – If you are a true believer that risotto NEEDS wine, this is a perfect recipe to add it. Add 1/2 cup of wine a few minutes before adding the broth. Remember choose a dry white wine you would drink.
plates of kale and pancetta risotto

STEP BY STEP

If you have patron my mushroom risotto page skip ahead to the recipe. If not below is my step by step approach to creating creamy, super flavorful risotto regardless of what you add in.

  1. In butter or oil sauté the base, or heartier vegetables and herbs. In this variety we skip the butter and oil all together. We start with rendering down the pancetta then using that fat to sauté the shallot, garlic, and thyme until soft.
  2. Toast the risotto for 3-5 minutes until grains start to become translucent.
  3. If adding wine (optional) deglaze the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes until alcohol cooks off. Add the broth, but not all at once. For every cup of risotto you need approx 4 cups of broth. Have extra on hand! I found with different brands of arborio rice I needed + or – a cup. Depending on your pan this might be split into 3 or 4 rounds. I pour just enough broth to cover the risotto.
  4. Mix 1-2 times per broth add. If you end up mixing more, no biggie! Also give the pan a shake midway to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom. Once broth has mostly absorbed add more broth until all broth has been used.
  5. In the last few minutes add the cheese, cream, and more delicate vegetables or precooked protein (ie. lobster or crab).
  6. Risotto should be creamy, and loose. Keep in mind it will firm up more the longer it sits out so eat immediately!
up close shot of kale and pancetta risotto

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Kale and Pancetta Risotto

Print Recipe
This creamy risotto is salty from the rendered pancetta, earthy and nutty from the kale and parmesan, and doesn't require an arm workout.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Fried Rice, Risotto
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pancetta chopped in cubes
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 1/4+ cup broth have more on hand
  • 3 cups dino kale stems removed, chopped.
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated

Instructions

  • Warm the broth separately on the stove.
  • In a low pot on medium-low heat add the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until brown and crispy ( the time will vary depending on how thick cut your pancetta is. For small pieces 5-7 min for a larger cut 8-10 min). Remove pancetta from the pot and put aside for later.
  • Remove 1-2 tbsp of fat if there is excess, but save on the side. In the pancetta fat add shallots, garlic, and thyme. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft and fragrant but not brown. If you notice that you need more fat to sauté in add the reserved fat back. (the amount of fat that renders from the pancetta all depends on how fatty the cut of pancetta you have.)
  • Once sweated out add rice. Toast rice for another 3-5 minutes until grains begin to become translucent.
  • Add the first round of broth. Depending on the pan add broth until it just covers the risotto. (could be 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups). Give it a quick mix, a shake of the pan to ensure all grains are covered and cook until rice absorbs the majority of the broth.
  • Add more broth and repeat above steps saving 1 cup of broth. If you are worried about the rice sticking you can shake the pan or mix at any time.
  • When all but 1 cup has been added, add the kale and final cup of broth. Mix.
  • Once all broth has been added, but not completely absorbed (15-18 minutes of cooking) give it a taste. Rice should be loose, creamy, and al dente. If rice is too al dente add more broth 1/2 cup at a time. Add in parmesan cheese and give it a mix. Remove from heat. Eat immediately. Enjoy!

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