I earnestly thought that this day was never going to come. And then, just like that, I flipped the page of my planner and there it is, a scribbled note on November 28th reminding me that yes, the day has indeed finally come: US Publication Day. I can hardly believe it. It was a long sailing, I know it was. Those of you who had to wait so long to put your hands on a copy: I can’t thank you enough for your patience. I hope you think it was worth the wait.
The first impressions from friends and readers across the pond are slowly coming in, and I can earnestly say that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. This new wave of comments is energising, but also very helpful. More than anything it’s helping me see the book with fresh eyes, which is just what I needed. So thank you. Thank you for cooking and sharing, for commenting and cheering and, of course, for buying the book in the first place. Thank you for your ongoing support always. Grazie.
Speaking of support, or better still, of sustenance, the recipe below provides just that. That’s only part of the reason why I like it so. The other is that it ticks all the boxes for the busy home cook who wants to put something satisfying, comforting and thrifty on the table, with very little washing up. It’s a seasonal weeknight staple around here. I can’t count how many times I’ve made it since pumpkin season kicked in.
The soup is a traditional Venetian recipe that Mum passed down to me. It is, of course, included in the book, alongside a handful of other rice-based dishes (remember this one with peas?). So, without further ado, below is the recipe as found the book, including the headnotes. I hope you’ll enjoy it; I hope that it’ll make you hungry for more.
RISI E SUCA (RICE & PUMPKIN SOUP)
Extact from ‘Veneto‘ by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber)
There’s a lot to love about this thrifty Venetian soup, not least the fact that it provides warmth and comfort with little to no effort. Funnily enough, it never ranked in Mum’s list of favourites — she found certain kinds of pumpkin ‘sickeningly sweet’ — though she would happily make it for us whenever Grandma gifted us with one of her home-grown pumpkins. Mum’s trick to balance the sweet inclinations of this soup is to enhance its savoury side by means of some crumbled fresh salame or sausage. The fact that this addition wasn’t very traditional didn’t bother her (who complains about sausage?). Ultimately, though, it all boils down to personal taste. Leave the sausage out and you’ll have one of the oldest Venetian soups out there.
30g | 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 golden onion, finely chopped
800g | 1lb 12oz pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm | 1.2 inch chunks
1.5 litres | 6¼ cups vegetable or chicken stock, heated
250g | 1¼ cups risotto rice (such as Vialone Nano or Carnaroli)
100g | 3½oz Italian pork sausage, crumbled (optional)
50g | 1¾oz Grana Padano, grated
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a wide, heavy-based pan, melt the butter and, when hot and bubbly, add the chopped onion and fry gently until soft and translucent, stirring often so it doesn’t colour. Stir in the pumpkin and cook over a mediumlow heat until just softened on the outside, stirring frequently. Pour in the hot stock and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pumpkin falls apart. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Place the pan of pumpkin stock back over a medium heat and, as soon as it comes back to the boil, add the rice. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice feels tender and the soup has turned dense and creamy; stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, if using, fry the crumbled sausage in a dry frying pan until browned and cooked through. Stir it into the soup at the very last minute alongside the grated Grana. Serve with a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper.