Risotto with Boquerones and Fish Sauce Caramel

Beurre blanc, white anchovies, and an umami-filled caramel fortified by fish sauce give deep flavor to this elegant and unexpected risotto.

Risotto with Boquerones and Fish Sauce Caramel

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Active Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 50 mins

While the idea of a risotto studded with anchovies and fish sauce caramel might seem out of the box, this dish, rich with umami flavor from aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and colatura di alici, an Italian anchovy fish sauce, is pure elegance. At her restaurant Masseria Moroseta in Ostuni, Italy, chef Giorgia Eugenia Goggi tops the risotto with homemade gravlax anchovies. We’ve opted for store-bought boquerones, white anchovies from Spain, for an equally satisfying garnish.


Beurre blanc

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Fish sauce caramel

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon dry white wine, divided

  • 1 whole star anise

  • 1 Calabrian chile

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as colatura di alici)


  • 5 cups water, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 1/4 cups carnaroli rice

  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

  • 3 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aged 24 months), grated (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon), plus more for garnish

Additional ingredients

  • 12 boquerones, drained and cut crosswise into thirds 

  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted unsalted almonds

  • Fennel fronds, for garnish


Make the beurre blanc

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine and lemon juice; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Remove onion mixture from heat, and stir in remaining 9 tablespoons butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir well until butter is completely melted and creates a smooth, emulsified sauce. (The sauce should have an acidic taste and mild onion flavor.) Let rest 4 minutes. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids, and sprinkle sauce with salt. Pour strained sauce into a small container. Cover and freeze until completely firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut chilled beurre blanc into small cubes; chill until ready to use.

Make the fish sauce caramel

  1. Stir together sugar and 1 tablespoon wine in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low, and cook, undisturbed, until a golden caramel forms, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and add star anise, chile, and remaining 1 cup wine. Return heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring to dissolve hardened caramel, until liquid reduces to about 1/4 cup and thickens into a light syrup, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, and carefully whisk in fish sauce. Pour into a heatproof bowl, and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Remove and discard star anise and chile.

Make the risotto

  1. Bring 5 cups water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high; reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, toast rice in a medium-size heavy pot over medium, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add wine; stir well, and cook until wine is mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in 1 ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of water (enough to cover rice). Cook, stirring constantly, until water is absorbed. Continue adding water, 1 ladleful (about 1/2 cup) at a time, stirring constantly until water is absorbed between additions, 12 to 15 minutes. (You might not use all of the water.)

  2. Remove rice from heat, and add cubed beurre blanc, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lemon zest. Cover and let rest 2 minutes. Vigorously stir with a spoon to emulsify the mantecatura (the creamy result of beating the fat and starch together) until risotto is glossy and soft. If necessary, add a little more hot water to loosen to desired consistency, and season with salt to taste.

  3. Divide risotto evenly among 4 plates. Top each portion evenly with boquerones and a generous drizzle of fish sauce caramel. Sprinkle evenly with almonds, and garnish with fennel fronds and grated lemon zest. Serve immediately.

To make ahead

Fish sauce caramel can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.


Find boquerones at specialty grocers. Colatura di alici can be found at piccolosgastronomia.com.

Suggested pairing

Savory, nutty manzanilla sherry: NV Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

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