Risotto with Pancetta and Leeks

If you grew up on the East Coast in the eighties, you may recall the original Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, with the mustached man hobbling around saying, “It’s time to make the donuts”!  For some strange reason, whenever I make risotto, I can’t help but recite the same mantra in my head, substituting, “It’s time to make the risotto”!  I guess because risotto is such a labor of love and the resulting dish is so satisfying and ‘sweet’?!  I was first turned onto risotto by a friend, and later followed a recipe by Lidia Bastianich to make my very first batch.  Now, it’s practically second nature and I don’t measure anything!  With practice, you’ll be doing the same… give it a try!

Ingredients: Feeds 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 8 oz leeks, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
  • kosher salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • red pepper flake
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 – 6 cups total, chicken and/or veggie stock
  • 2 in piece of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan


  1. In a large enameled cast iron French oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and sauté until it starts to crisp.  Add the leeks and continue to cook until soft.  Add a pinch of salt, some fresh black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Add the minced garlic, and let cook a few more minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and leeks and reserve.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan if needed, then toast the arborio rice until transparent.  Add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate.  Stir continuously.
  3. Add small amounts of stock to the rice (1/2 – 1 cup at a time), and allow it to cook down, stirring often.  Add the parmesan cheese rind and allow it to melt and add flavor to the rice as it cooks.  Periodically taste the rice for texture and saltiness, adding 1/2 tsp kosher salt as needed.  This step can take up to one hour and may utilize up to 6 cups of stock.
  4. When rice reaches desired tenderness, add reserved pancetta and leeks.  Add the parmesan and mix until incorporated.  Serve immediately with additional grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Mangia Bene!

*Original recipe adapted from Lidia’s Italy, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich




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