Risotto with saffron and licorice powder – by Massimiliano Alajmo

Raffaele and Massimiliano Alajmo - Photo by Mario Reggiani

Italy’s youngest three-star Michelin chef, Massimiliano Alajmo is revered by his clients and peers alike for his clever interpretation of traditional Italian flavors.

Born in Padua, Italy in 1974, Massimiliano came into the world with a passion for food in his DNA. Together with his brother Raffaele and sister Laura, Massi is a part of the fifth generation of the Alajmo family, self-employed as chefs and restaurateurs. While attending the College of Hotel Management Pietro d’Abano, Massimiliano furthered his culinary education by spending his summer breaks interning for a number of Europe’s top chefs: Alfredo Chiocchetti at Ja Navalge in Moena, Marc Veyrat at the Auberge de l’Eridan in Veyrier du Lac d’Annecy and Michel Guerard at Les Près d’Eugenie in Eugenie Les Bains. After graduating in 1993, Massimiliano started working in the kitchen of Le Calandre, in Sarmeola di Rubano (Padua). The restaurant had one Michelin star at the time, which had been awarded to Massimiliano’s mother, chef Rita Chimetto, the previous year.

Massimiliano was appointed executive chef of Le Calandre on March 13, 1994. Le Calandre was awarded its second Michelin star in December 1996, making Massimiliano the youngest chef to receive the honor. In the same year, Italian food critic, Paolo Marchi, named Massimiliano “the Mozart of cookery.” On November 27, 2002, Le Calandre was awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide. Chef Massimiliano was again the youngest chef ever to obtain the important recognition. In 2004, together with other top Italian chefs, Massimiliano and his brother Raffaele founded Il Gusto per la Ricerca, a non-profit organization that supports children in need. The organization hosts an annual gala dinner to raise money for the cause. During the same year, the Alajmo family opened Il Calandrino, a casual bar/restaurant located next door to Le Calandre. A portion of the restaurant is occupied by the Alajmo pastry shop, filled with Italian cakes, pastries and other seasonal sweets.

In 2006, Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo self-published their first cookbook, entitled In.gredienti. The book was named the Best Cookbook in the World at the 2007 Gourmand International – World Cookbook Awards. In 2007, Massimiliano and Raffaele opened Il Calandrino Tokyo, a gourmet food shop called Il Calandrino dolce.salato and a pasty corner called Il Calandrino dolce. After two years spent between Toyko and Sarmeola, the Alajmo brothers returned to Italy to plan for other international restaurant openings. The Alajmo brother’s ongoing search for pure, honest ingredients and desire to share them with others lead to the to the development of their product line in 2008. The In.gredienti line includes everything from basic ingredients like olive oil, pasta and tomatoes to savory snacks, cookies and handmade jams. All of the In.gredienti products are currently available for purchase at the Alajmo family gourmet food shop (also called In.gredienti) and at the online Alajmo store (www.alamo.it/store). Also in 2008, chef Massimiliano began working with master perfumer Lorenzo Dante Ferro, studying the sense of smell as it relates to the dining experience. After more than a year of research, Massimiliano launched a line of sprayable essential oils, Le Essenze, to be used on food and cocktails as “taste accelerators.” In early 2010, the Alajmo brothers remodeled the dining room of Le Calandre, using Massi’s culinary philosophy as their guide. They selected the materials to redecorate the dining room with the same focus and dedication that Massimiliano uses when sourcing ingredients. A documentary of the remodel, Sala da Cucina, is available on http://www.alajmo.it. In May, 2010, in celebration of his 36th birthday, chef Massimiliano invited a group of Italy’s top chefs to Le Calandre to found the Cavalieri della Cucina Italiana (Knights of Italian Cuisine). United by mutual respect and loyalty, the chefs believe that by working together they will be better equipped to lobby with legislators, communicate with the media and promote Italian gastronomy worldwide.

Currently, Massimiliano and his family owns and manages three restaurants (Le Calandre, Il Calandrino and La Montecchia), as well as a small hotel (Hotel Maccheroni), a gourmet food store (In.gredienti), a line of food products (also called In.gredienti) and a line of hand-crafted design objects and tableware (alajmodesign).

Risotto with saffron and licorice powder
Ingredients for 4 persons:
190 gr. of chicken soup
4 gr. of saffron powder

Dissolve the saffron in the hot chicken soup and cook it till it shrinks into a third.

For the risotto
1,2 lt. of the chicken soup
320 gr. if Carnaroli rice
80 gr. of grated Parmigiano cheese
70 gr. of dry white wine
60 gr. of butter
50 gr. of saffron concentrate
15 gr. of small hacked white onion
12 gr. of extra virgin olive oil
5 gr. of lemon juice
2 gr. of powder of the dark licorice
1 gr. of saffron pistils
a bit of salt
a trace of sugar

Fry the rice together with oil and onion, fade with the white wine, add salt, saffron pistils, add gradually the chicken soup and 30 gr of the concentrate.

When it’s cooked remove from the heat and add butter, parmesan cheese and lemon juice.
Stir well, emulsify with a drop of the hot soup and put it on the plate. Strew the surface with the licorice powder and make some sketch or brush stroke with the concentrate of saffron.

Quantity of saffron and licorice are relative and depend on their intensity.

About the extraction
Instead of using saffron powder risotto can be made  (creamy risotto with grated orange peals and parsley) with  drops of concentrate of the red orange.


(la ricetta originale in italiano si trova sotto la foto)

Photo by Wowe

Ingredienti per 4
190 gr. di brodo di gallina
4 gr. di polvere di zafferano

Sciogliere lo zafferano nel brodo di gallina caldo. Fare sobbollire sino a quando si restringe di un terzo.

Per il risotto
1,2 lt. di brodo di gallina
320 gr. di riso Carnaroli
80 gr. di parmigiano grattugiato
70 gr. di vino bianco secco
60 gr. di burro
50 gr. di ristretto di zafferano
15 gr. di cipolla bianca tritata
12 gr. di olio extravergine di oliva
5 gr. di succo di limone
2 gr. di polvere di liquirizia scura
1 gr. di pistilli di zafferano
un pizzico di sale
una percezione di zucchero

Tostare il riso in un fondo di cipolla e olio, sfumare con il vino bianco, aggiungere il sale
e i pistilli di zafferano, unire gradualmente il brodo di gallina bollente e 30 gr. di ristretto.
Portare a cottura, togliere dal fuoco e mantecare con il burro, il parmigiano e il succo di limone. Emulsionare con un goccino di brodo bollente e allargare il risotto su un piatto piano. Cospargere la superficie con la polvere di liquirizia e guarnire con qualche schizzo e pennellata di ristretto allo zafferano.

Le quantità di zafferano e di liquirizia impiegate sono soggette a variazione a seconda della loro intensità.

Note di estrazione
In sostituzione alla polvere di liquirizia si può cospargere il risotto (mantecato con l’aggiunta di scorze di arancia grattugiata e prezzemolo) con gocce di ristretto di arancia sanguinella.



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