‘Tastasal’ is a flavoursome mixture of fresh minced meat with salt and spices, and is a typical product from the countryside near Verona: it is a staple ingredient for sausage-making. If you don't have access to Tastasal, just ask your butcher for sausage meat. This recipe was shared with us by Maria Grazia, a Cesarina who lives in the beautiful town of Bussolengo.
Historically, local cooks would prepare this risotto to ‘test’ the saltiness of the tastasal, to decide whether it was ready to be made into sausages. This avoided making huge amounts of sausages which weren’t seasoned correctly! The name, in fact, derives from the dialect verb ‘tastare’ (to taste) and ‘sal’ (salt). In Maria Grazia’s version, she adds delicious radicchio to the mix, which is a classic ingredient in this region, available in autumn and winter.
The vivid pink-purple leaves add a striking colour to the risotto, as well as lending a hint of bitterness that is the perfect balance with the sweet, almost nutty base of butter and rice. The original recipe calls for Vialone rice, but Maria Grazia prefers to use Carnaroli rice, which gives the dish a creamier consistency.