Wild Strawbery & Basil Risotto After a Trip to Nemi

The weather is warmer, the sun is always shining and no one has been sniffling for a week now.  Our  winter hibernation is coming to an end.  The prospect of seeing the town of Nemi pulled us out of our torpidness.  It is about 40 kilometers away from Rome and overlooks Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater lake.

There are two reasons why I earmarked this small town for a visit.  Its museum houses the remnants of the two large ships dating back from the period A.D. 37 to A.D. 41 during Roman Emperor Caligula's reign.  Another reason was to try their fragoline or wild strawberries.   Being grown on the sides of the volcanic crater, a microclimate is created by retaining the warmth of the sun, thus making the flavour more intense than the commercially grown ones.

It's not really the period of the wild strawberries yet, with June still a bit far but we already found some shops selling them.  Our 5-year old is the one who enjoyed the sight of these acutely bright red fruit.  When he was younger, at the age of 17-months, he was already a little expert in picking his own wild strawberries in the Dolomites.   He didn't have to insist to take home some because I was also excited to try out the celebrated wild strawberries of this town.

For the major part, I prepared the wild strawberries sprinkled with sugar while I set aside a portion for a risotto that I had in mind.   It's an offshoot of the classic risotto with regular strawberries.  Risotto with wild strawberries mixed with basil came out a tad unfamiliar to the palate but delicious nonetheless.   


Wild Strawberry & Basil Risotto

Serves 4
  • 250 grams Arborio rice
  • 150 grams wild strawberries
  • handful basil leaves
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 liter vegetable broth
  • knob of butter
  • 1 glass white wine
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Prepare the vegetable broth with 1 liter of water in a pot for later use.
  2. Sautè the onions in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil on medium heat.  When it starts to change color after about a couple of minutes, add the rice.  Keep moving them to avoid burning.  
  3. When the rice is toasted enough, about 3 minutes, add the wine.  Keep on moving the rice while letting the alcohol evaporate.  
  4. On low heat, add about 1/4 of the hot vegetable broth.  Continue ladling the rest of the hot vegetable broth to the risotto until you attain the right consistency.  Stir constantly. 
  5. In the middle of cooking the rice, add the wild strawberries.  When it is almost cooked, add the chopped basil.  Adjust the taste with salt.  If it is a bit acidic, adjust the taste with sugar. 
  6. When the risotto is cooked, turn of fire and add a knob of butter.