ES.S41 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full

Lesson 2

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A mound of rice sits on top of a white plate.  A large leafy green vegetable sits on top of the rice.

A plate of risotto. In this lesson, students made three different kinds of risotto. (Image courtesy of Claire Sutton on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA.)

In this lesson, you will learn:

Language Instruction

  • How to express preference
  • Demonstrative adjectives
  • Event: Il Carnevale/Carnival 

Cooking Instruction

How to prepare:

  • Risotto with mushrooms and saffron
  • Risotto with radicchio and sausage
  • Risotto with asparagus

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Watch two videos:

Lesson 2, Part 2: Ingredients

Lesson 2, Part 3: Cooking Instruction

Listen to the pronunciation of the ingredients for risotto:

Pronunciation of the ingredients for risotto (MP3)

Il Risotto

Risotto is a typical dish from Northern Italy, particularly from the regions Piemonte and Lombardia, but you can eat it everywhere nel Bel Paese. We use specific varieties of rice, such as riso arborio, that remain creamy and have body at the same time. Rice in Italy is grown mostly in the so-called Padan Plain (Pianura Padana) or Po Valley (valle del Po), Po being the longest river in Italy. During class, we cooked three kinds of risotto:

  • con funghi e zafferano (If we had cooked it with only zafferano, it would have been risotto alla milanese — Milano style.)
  • con asparagi
  • al radicchio e salsiccia

You can make risotto with essentially anything: peas, pumpkin, zucchini, artichoke, shrimp, seafood, gorgonzola cheese, lemon, herbs … whatever you have in the fridge. Experiment!


It serves 4 … depending on who is invited for dinner. On average you should consider 80 g per person (two fistfuls), but I prefer 100 g.

  • Olive oil (olio d’oliva) — max a couple of spoonfuls
  • Sale
  • One small cipolla (you can also use scallion, i.e. scalogno) and/or 1 clove of aglio
  • Half to one bouillon cube (vegetable or not, it is up to you)
  • 400 g of arborio rice
  • One spoonful of butter (burro)
  • Parmigiano cheese (formaggio Parmigiano)
  • In a few years you can add one glass of wine
  • Optional: One bunch of italian parsley (prezzemolo)

and, based on which option you choose:

  • About 150 g of fresh mushrooms (funghi) or 50 g of dried mushrooms. If you use dried mushrooms, soak them in warm water for at least 20 minutes. In class we used shitake mushrooms. If you find porcini, they are ideal.
  • Saffron powder (zafferano)
  • Asparagi
  • A few Italian sausages (salsiccia)
  • One head of radicchio (also called Italian chicory)


  1. Make a soffritto (sweat) on medium-low heat with chopped onion (options 1,2) or garlic (option 3)
  2. In the meantime, boil at least 1.5 L of water (yes, we measure the water in liters, litri.)
  3. When the vegetables have softened, add the bouillon cube (it will melt).
    • Option 1: add the chopped mushrooms. After a few minutes, add the rice and turn up the heat
    • Option 2: add the asparagi (washed and chopped — discard the tough ends). After a few minutes, add the rice and turn up the heat.
    • Option 3: add the radicchio (washed and finely chopped). When it gets soft, add the sausage (without skin, in small pieces) and turn up the heat. When the sausage is cooked, add the rice.
  4. Toast the rice until it is lightly translucent.
  5. (At this point you can add a glass of wine and wait until the alcohol evaporates.)
  6. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Keep adding boiling water and DO NOT stir continuously. Season to taste with salt (you can also add  pepper and other spices)
    • Option 1: fill a glass with boiling water and mix the saffron powder. Add it to the rice.
  7. Continue to add water and stir from time to time until the rice is tender (but not too tender, taste it!). It should take about 15-20 minutes.
  8. It is time for the mantecatura: take off the heat, stir butter and some grated parmesan.
  9. You can sprinkle with minced Italian parsley.

Like with pasta, we want the risotto al dente (literally to the tooth, such that the teeth find still a little resistance). We sometimes say that the risotto is all’onda (literally to the wave) to indicate how risotto “flows” when served onto a plate.

Note: In the traditional recipe you prepare the broth and add it, instead of putting the bouillon cube in the sweat and adding boiling water. The disadvantage is that you then need to wash an extra pot.

Buon appetito! Enjoy your meal!

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Lezione Numero Due/Lesson Number Two

Watch a video:

Lesson 2, Part 1: Language Instruction

Il Carnevale/Carnival

  • Oggi in Italia inizia il Carnevale./Today in Italy, Carnival begins.
    • Carnevale is a farewell to meat.
    • It’s an historically pagan celebration of the passage from winter to spring.
    • For Christians, il Carnevale became the period of big celebrations before quaresima/lent, that is instead a period of repentance, when people give up certain luxuries (until Easter Sunday).
    • Next Tuesday, Martedì Grasso/Fat Tuesday, Carnevale ends and the quaresima begins. There are big festivities.
    • We eat sweet treats, like frittelle (fried sweet dumplings, cream puffs) e chiacchiere.
    • People (mostly kids) wear costumes. There are guge parades in Venezia, Viareggio (vicino a Pisa), Ivrea.

Determinative Articles

Listen to the instructor speak about determinative articles:

Determinative articles (MP3 - 1.1MB)

Where Do You Come From

(Tu) Da dove vieni? Where do you come from?
(Io) Vengo da Salò, in Italia I come from Salò, in Italy
Io Vengo da Boston, negli Stati Uniti I come from Boston, United States

Listen to the instructor speak about how to express where you come from.

Da dove vieni? Where do you come from? (MP3 - 1.7MB)

This, That, These, Those

Questo (masc. sing.) This, close to the speaker
Codesto (masc. sing.) That, close to the listener, mostly in disuse
Quello (masc. sing.) That, from the both the speaker and the listener
Questo, Questa This
Questi, Queste These
Quello, Quella That
Quelli, Quelle Those
Questa sera-> Stasera cuciniamo Tonight-> Tonight we cook
Questa cipolla è più grande di quella. This onion is larger than that.
Queste cipolle sono più piccole di quelle. These onions are smaller than those.

Listen to the instructor speak about how to say “this”, “that”, “these”, and “those”.

This, That, These, and Those (MP3 - 1.3MB)


Lesson 2 Assignments (PDF)


Ascolta e scrivi. /Listen and write.

Use this audio file for the dictation exercise.

Dictation exercise (MP3 - 1.7MB)

Light on the Piazza: The Newsletter for Lovers of Italian Culture

Map of Italy

Chiacchiere di Carnevale

Le Fritelle di Carnevale

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Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2012
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Activity Assignments
Instructor Insights