courtesy of Ira Braus
Giuseppe Verdi took great delight in discovering food.
Giuseppe Verdi took great delight in discovering food. courtesy of Ira Braus
With Thanksgiving in mind, we're exploring a few appetizing tales of composers and their culinary inclinations. Look for stories about Rossini, Mahler, Berg, Paganini, Schoenberg and others to follow.
Giuseppe Verdi came by his love of food honestly. He descended from two generations of restaurant owners and grocers in northern Italy, and took to farming as a hobby.
The great opera composer was humble when it came to his music, but not so when the subject was cooking. In Ira Braus' book Classical Cooks, he includes a letter from Verdi's wife regarding a possible Iron Chef-style cook off between Verdi and an actress by the name of Ristori:
"By the way, if la Ristori believes she will hold supremacy in the matter of tagliatelli, Verdi counts on eclipsing her with risotto, which truly he makes in divine fashion."
I'm not sure if Verdi's own risotto recipe survives, but we have the next best thing — a recipe dedicated to Verdi. Below are the instructions for making Risotto Giuseppe Verdi's Style by Henri-Paul Pellaprat (1869-1952), a disciple of the legendary Auguste Escoffier, and the chef often called the father of modern French cooking.
Good luck. And in the comments section, please let us know which music by Verdi you think would compliment this delicious-looking risotto recipe.
¾ lb. Carnaroli rice
2 oz. butter
3 oz. mushrooms
3 oz. asparagus tips
3 oz. Prosciutto di Parma
3 oz. canned tomatoes
3 ½ tablespoons light cream
4 cups meat broth
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste
½ onion, thinly sliced
25 minutes preparation + 16 minutes cooking
Clean and finely mince the onion. Clean and thinly slice the mushrooms. Clean and blanch the asparagus in salted water: cool them in water and ice. Mince the prosciutto finely. Blanch the tomatoes, peel, seed and cut them into cubes.
In a pot melt ¼ of the butter, add the onion and slowly cook it until soft and golden. Add the rice and toast it for about 1 minute.
Add the stock, 1 ladle at the time, waiting until it has been absorbed before adding the next one.
After 8-10 minutes, add mushrooms, prosciutto, asparagus and tomatoes.
Stir well, cook for another 2 minutes and add the cream.
When the rice is "al dente" (about 18 minutes), add butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then stir well and cover with a lid. Let it rest for 2 minutes and serve. Serves 4.
(We're grateful to author Ira Braus and his book Classical Cooks. Braus is associate professor of music history at the University of Hartford. And thanks to the Italian food and culture website Academia Barilla.)