When is a risotto not a risotto? When it is a paniscia or a panissa! Across the Po Valley on the Vercelli plain beyond Milan in Piedmont, the saluggia bean is joined with the lard-covered Novara salami to produce a risotto rooted in local tradition.
This is neither the time nor the place to discuss the etymology of the name or decide on the origin of the dish and what the ingredients should be. The primary ingredient is rice and it is made with beans, beef or pork, lard, salami, wine and should come with a vegetable base. We will leave that discussion for the relevant chapter in The Great European Food Adventure.
What we can say now is that there are several versions of the paniscia or panissa. This is the paniscia from Novara, a dish that has genius among its ingredients.
- 2 litres water
- 400 g Savoy cabbage heart, sliced thin
- 350 g baldo rice
- 250 g salame d’la duja, diced
- 150 g saluggia dried beans, soaked overnight / 200 g fresh borlotti beans
- 140 ml Barbera red wine
- 130 g onion, chopped
- 120 g carrots, diced
- 120 g celery, diced
- 120 g tomatoes, diced
- 90 g leek, sliced thin
- 90 g pork rind / pork belly, diced
- 35 g butter
- 30 ml olive oil / vegetable oil
- 10 g black pepper
Place the beans, pork rind or pork belly and all the vegetables except the onions in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.
Sauté the onions and salami in the oil in a large deep frying pan until the onions are soft and beginning to redden.
Add the rice, coat in the mixture. Remove pan from heat. Pour the wine into the rice, place pan back on a medium-low heat, allow the wine to reduce.
Gradually add ladles of the bean and vegetable ‘soup’ with a good amount of the beans and vegetables among the liquid to the rice, cook until the rice is al dente. Use all the solid material in the soup.
After about 20 minutes turn off heat, add the black pepper and the butter, cover, leave to rest for 10 minutes.