Recipes: Cooking for the Pope

Lidia Bastianich, host of the popular PBS cooking show "Lidia's Italian American Kitchen," was chosen to cook for Pope Benedict XVI during his recent visit to New York. She made two dinners for the pope, one last Friday and another on Saturday. Each meal had several courses, and four of the recipes are below.

Spring Vegetable Risotto With Grana Padano Shavings

Recipe courtesy Lidia Bastianich

Makes 6 servings

For the spring "pesto":

1 cup ramp leaves or young leeks

2 cups of spinach or Swiss chard leaves, cleaned and washed
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 teaspoon salt

For the risotto:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup minced scallions (approximately 6 scallions)
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
½ cup dry white wine
6½ cups hot vegetable stock
½ teaspoon salt, or as needed
½ cup fresh shelled peas
½ cup blanched, chopped asparagus
1 cup blanched, peeled and shelled fava beans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
½ cup grated Grana Padano
½ cup freshly shaved Grana Padano
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Prepare the spring pesto.

Prepare the puree by adding the ramps, spinach and scallions to a blender. Add the extra virgin olive oil slowly and salt to taste. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

2. For the risotto:

In a heavy, wide, 3 to 4 quart casserole or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the scallions and shallots together until translucent, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, and stir to coat with the oil. Toast the rice until the edges become translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stir well until evaporated. Add ½ cup of the hot stock and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until all of the stock has been absorbed. Add enough stock at sufficient intervals to completely moisten the rice. After the first addition of stock, stir in the favas, peas and asparagus. Stir constantly and adjust the level of heat so the rice simmers very gently until the rice mixture is creamy but al dente. This will take about 16 minutes from the first addition of stock.

Remove the casserole from the heat and quickly stir in the spring puree with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and continue to stir quickly until melted; then mix in the grated Grana Padano. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, and pepper. Ladle into warm shallow bowls and top with shavings of Grana Padano, and serve immediately.

Whole Roasted Striped Bass

Recipe courtesy Lidia Bastianich

Makes 6 servings

For the garlic-infused oil:
1½ cups extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon salt

For the fish:
12 small red potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 whole striped bass, around 6-7 pounds or 6 whole striped bass, about 1¼ pounds each, eviscerated and scaled
6 fresh bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
6 lemons, sliced in half
2 cups dry white wine

To serve:
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Prepare the garlic-infused oil about half an hour before roasting the fish: In a small bowl blend the olive oil, garlic and salt. Allow the sauce to steep for half an hour.

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