This post is written in partnership with Cheeses of Europe.
Risotto is the comfort food we all need right now. And while it can get a reputation for being finicky to make, a simple risotto is easy and adaptable.
Don't believe the critics: you don’t have to stand over the stove forever tending and fussing; just keep your eye on the pot and stir occasionally.
For this recipe, we're adding the beautiful nutty and earthy French cheese Mimolette, and topping the dish with crispy sage leaves – this makes a side dish special enough for the holiday table but easy enough to pull off on an average weeknight.
What Is Mimolette?
Mimolette is a deep orange-colored semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from France with a distinctive bright color and nutty flavor.
It's mainly produced in the Northern French county of Flanders around Lille, which closely borders the Flemish region of Belgium.
The creation of the cheese stems from a need to replace the popular Dutch Edam cheese during the late 1600s because of a ban on its import to France imposed during the Franco-Dutch war. The French decided to add their own distinctive feature to their knock-off version of the cheese, turning it a bright orange color with the addition of annatto, a natural coloring derived from achiote seeds.
But ... enough history! Let's cook!
Why Mimolette Risotto?
Mimolette is the perfect choice for a decadent risotto; it has a buttery, caramel flavor and a fruity aroma.
It's firm enough to grate, and in risotto it lends an earthy yet sharp flavor and sweet fragrance.
How to Make Cheesy Risotto
For your risotto, you'll want to start with Arborio or Carnaroli rice; the short-grain rice releases plenty of starch, which gives the risotto its velvety texture.
Then you'll need stock, and we recommend homemade vegetable or chicken stock, since one of the key elements in risotto is the broth. A clean tasting, well-salted broth that you would enjoy sipping is what you're looking for. There’s no shame in using store-bought, just be sure to choose one that has good flavor.
When you're set to begin cooking, be sure to use a deep saucepan, as opposed to a wide one, to limit evaporation (you want all that liquid to stay put so the rice doesn’t dry out.)
How Long Will Leftover Risotto Keep?
We don't think this will be a problem! But if for some reason you have leftovers of this addictive side dish, simply refrigerate in a covered container for up to four days.
To reheat on the stovetop, warm over low heat and add a little water (1 tablespoon at a time) to loosen up the risotto, if needed. The sage leaves are best enjoyed the same day they're made.
Cheesy Risotto with Leeks and Crispy Sage
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Leaves from 1 small bunch of sage
- A few pinches of coarse or flaky salt
- 1 medium leek
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3/4 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) finely grated Mimolette, plus more for garnish
Make the crispy sage garnish:
Set a paper towel lined-plate next to the stove. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot.
Fry about 6 sage leaves at a time for 2 to 3 seconds, or until crisp. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to cool. Repeat until all the leaves are fried. Sprinkle with flaky salt and set aside.
Sauté the leeks:
Slice off the root end and the tough green part of the leek and cut it in half lengthwise. If it is sandy, run it under cold water, fanning out the leaves to remove any grit. Cut into thin slices.
In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the leeks and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and translucent, but not browned.
Add the rice and wine:
Add the rice to the leeks, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are warm and coated with butter. Add the wine and stir until it is almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add the stock:
Add 2 cups of stock to the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Stir occasionally until the stock is mostly absorbed.
Continue adding the remaining stock in 1/2-cup increments, stirring occasionally after each addition until each addition of stock is almost absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. The rice should look like shiny porridge and should be slightly al dente. Err on the side of undercooking, since it will continue to cook and absorb liquid off the heat.
Finish the risotto:
Remove the pan from the heat. If necessary, stir in another splash of stock to loosen the mixture. Stir in the Mimolette and taste, adding more salt, if desired.
Serve in bowls topped with more grated Mimolette and crispy sage leaves.