Risotto cacio e pepe with grilled radicchio

Risotto cacio e pepe with radicchio

Autumn is here which means it’s time for some heart-warming risottos. This one takes Massimo Bottura‘s peppery, parmesan-infused Risotto Cacio e Pepe, and gives it a sweet-and bitter twist. A delicious creamy risotto served with thyme and olive-oil-infused radicchio, making it a perfect starter or main. Get grating and keep a hold of those parmesan rinds….


Risotto cacio e pepe with radicchio


I was sifting through Netflix one night, when something caught my eye; a foodie series called ‘Chef’s Table’. The first episode was all about Massimo Bottura, an Italian chef who runs Osteria Francescana – a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Modena, which this summer was voted 2nd best restaurant in the world. I’d come across Massimo before, but honestly didn’t know much about him, so I pressed play and found out. For any food lover or budding entrepreneur out there, I urge you to watch this. It’s a fascinating story about the making of a remarkable chef.

Massimo, like any Italian, has a love and passion for his land, and the fantastic produce it has to offer. He combines that passion with a love of contemporary art, a combination which has fuelled his stardom. Creations such as ‘Oops! I dropped the lemon tart‘ or ‘The crunchy part of the lasagne‘ are examples of how Massimo has taken good old Mamma’s family cooking, and rocketed it into the 21st century.
In 2012, after two major earthquakes hit Emilia Romagna, the region was in disarray. The very same region that is famous for Balsamic Vinegar, Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano now had to deal with years’ worth of produce, damaged overnight. In order to accelerate the consumption of parmesan stock, Massimo took one of Italy’s most famous pasta dishes, and turned it on it’s head. He invented the concept of a Risotto Cacio e Pepe. Risotto rice instead of spaghetti or tonnarelli, and parmigiano instead of the roman pecorino.
A simple switch, but delivered in a way that infuses every last ounce of parmesan flavour into a remarkably light and more-ish risotto.
This risotto uses a delicious parmesan broth to infuse an intense, creamy flavour through the dish. The broth essentially consists of heating water and lots of grated parmesan the night before – I decided to also use the rinds so as not to waste an ounce of flavour. As the world’s supplies of parmesan were at stake, in his original recipe Massimo went to town on the parmesan front. In order to ensure that this risotto didn’t cost more than an average weekly shop, and as parmesan reserves are pretty safe at the moment, I dialled the quantities down a bit, still a achieving a great result.
The radicchio twist I’ve given this risotto contrasts nicely with the intense parmesan flavour, keeping the taste buds fully awake even when having this as a main. You’ll also notice the dish uses a pepper mix; Massimo uses Szechuan, Jamaican, Sarawak and other peppers – I’ve used a mix of black and pink peppercorns.
A nice wedge of parmigiano!


Serves 4. Prep time 15mins. Wait time 4hrs min (stock). Cook time 30mins.


For the parmesan stock (night before):
1 litre of still water at room temperature
400g grated parmesan

For the risotto:
a few glugs of olive oil
1 litre parmesan stock
320g arborio rice
1 head of radicchio
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 pinch of salt flakes
mix of cracked pepper to taste


Mountains of grated parmigiano

Try not to go over 90C...

Grilled radicchio


Mix the grated parmesan and water in a saucepan and heat to 85-90C. Take off the heat, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.

The mixture will have separated into 3 parts. Parmesan solids at the bottom, the delicious parmesan broth in the middle and cream at the top. Separate out the cream, and sieve away the solids to hold back the broth.

Slice the radicchio into quarters. Take 2 of them and marinade in thyme and olive oil, adding a pinch of salt. Finely slice the other 2 quarters and set aside.

Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add and toast the rice for 2 minutes, then begin adding the broth a bit at a time, stirring continuously.

Ensure the risotto doesn’t dry out. You’ll want to maintain quite a fluid, all’onda consistency. If you’re running low on broth, add a little water from time to time.

Stir in the sliced radicchio 5 minutes before the rice has finished cooking.

Heat up a griddle pan and grill the 2 remaining radicchio quarters until they start to lightly brown. When they’re ready give them a rough chop.

When the rice is done, add the parmesan cream and vigorously stir to emulsify the risotto.

Plate up with a healthy topping of roughly chopped, grilled radicchio and a good twist of pepper mix.


Buon appetito!




What’s your favourite risotto? Have you ever tried cacio e pepe pasta? Let me know what you think and thanks for reading!



2 Comment

  1. Now, if I’d ever sit myself down to watch something, I’ll be watching Chef Massimo! Sounds fantastic, just as your risotto does! I have never heard of making a Parmesan broth-I just throw the rind in the sugo! How intriguing, will have to try it. Thank you for a wonderful post. I wish I had time to go through all of your recipes right now! I love your site, Cristiano!

    1. cristiano says: Reply

      What a lovely comment Christina – Grazie! Would post more, but as you say, it’s finding the time! Whenever you’ve an hour to kill you should watch this episode, and I bet you’ll have a trip to Modena booked next time you’re over :) Buona Domenica, a presto! Cristiano

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