Oven-baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto

A measuring jug is vital when cooking rice as it is always measured by volume.This rice recipe is another version of oven-baked risotto, this time with leeks and smoked pancetta and, of course, lots of lovely melting cheese.

Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main course

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (April 2000).

Oven-baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto
 4 oz (110 g) sliced smoked pancetta
 12 oz (350 g) leeks, trimmed, halved, rinsed and sliced (trimmed weight should be about 8 oz/225 g)
 2½ oz (60 g) butter
 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
 6 fl oz (175 ml) Italian carnaroli rice
 3 fl oz (75 ml) dry white wine
 18 fl oz (510 ml) vegetable stock (made with Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder)
 1 level dessertspoon fresh sage, chopped
 ½ level teaspoon salt
 2 level tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
 freshly milled black pepper
To serve:
 2 oz (50 g) Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C).
You will also need a 2 in (5 cm) deep ovenproof baking dish measuring 9 in (23 cm) square.


Begin by reserving 5 slices of pancetta, then cut the rest into thin strips. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the strips of pancetta to the pan along with the onion and let them cook over a gentle heat for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is soft and golden.

Meanwhile, place the baking dish in the oven to warm through.

Now add the leeks and the rice to the saucepan, stirring them around to get a good coating of butter (it will look like there's not nearly enough rice at this stage, but it swells up during cooking), then add the white wine and vegetable stock.

Next add the sage, half a teaspoon of salt and some freshly milled black pepper and bring it up to simmering point, then transfer the whole lot from the pan to the warmed dish.

Stir once, then place it on the centre shelf of the oven (without covering) to cook for exactly 20 minutes – a timer is useful here.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the grill to its highest setting for 10 minutes or so, then place the 5 reserved slices of pancetta on a piece of foil and grill them 3 in (7.5 cm) from the heat for about 5 minutes: it's important to get them really crisp. When they're cool enough to handle, crumble into tiny pieces and leave to one side.

After the 20 minutes are up, slide the risotto dish out along the oven shelf and gently stir in the 2 tablespoons of grated Pecorino, turning the rice grains over.

Now put the timer on again and cook the risotto for a further 15 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven and put a clean tea towel over it while you invite everyone to sit down.

Like soufflés, risottos won't wait, so serve presto pronto on warmed plates and sprinkle with the crispy pancetta and the extra grated Pecorino.

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