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Venetian prosecco and snapper risotto

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 30 minutes
COOKING TIME 1 hour 20 minutes

Risotto can be made with any number of white fleshed fish, but in Venice it’s commonly made with red snapper. As with all risotto, the key is the quality of the stock, which is enriched here with the snapper bones. Another classic fish risotto, risotto di gò, utilises whole small lagoon fish and cooks them until they almost completely disintegrate. However, most foreigners, while appreciating the intense flavours of classic dishes like risotto di gò, don’t understand how it can be a fish risotto without any visible fish in it. As such, I’ve done my best to please both the traditionalists and those who eat with their eyes, including seared snapper fillets so it not only looks more satisfying, but can also be served as quite a substantial main course.

1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) whole red snapper, filleted, bones chopped and washed and reserved for stock
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying the fish
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1.1 litres (4½ cups) Fish stock (see below)
80 g (½ cup) finely diced French shallots
350 g (1⅔ cups) Vialone Nano rice (or any risotto rice can be substituted)
500 ml (2 cups) La Farra Prosecco DOCG (or any quality prosecco can be substituted)
80 g (3 oz) butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a deep pot, sauté the red snapper bones and half of the chopped garlic in half of the extra virgin olive oil. Add the lemon juice and fish stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer for 45 minutes, skimming regularly. Strain, return to a clean pan and keep at a simmer on the stovetop.

Cut the snapper fillets into four 150 g (5½ oz) pieces and, using a sharp knife, score the skin of the fish across the fillet in 1 cm (½ inch) intervals.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a separate medium-sized saucepan over low heat for 1 minute. Add the shallots and remaining chopped garlic and cook gently for 4 minutes, until they become translucent. Add the rice and stir through, coating the rice with oil, then cook over high heat for a further 2 minutes. Add the prosecco to the rice and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Slowly add the hot fish stock to the rice, one ladle at a time, stirring continuously for around 15-20 minutes. The rice will absorb the stock and form a creamy texture.

You will need to cook the snapper before the risotto is ready. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Season the snapper fillets on both sides and add to the pan, skin-side down, and using a spatula gently press on top of each piece of fish for 10 seconds so the skin of the fish is flat against the base of the pan. This will make the skin crisp.

Cook the fish for approximately 7 minutes on the skin side, then turn over and cook again for a further 2 minutes (depending on the thickness). Set aside to rest for 1–2 minutes.

When the risotto is ready, add the butter and then season. Cover and let the risotto rest for 2 minutes before stirring in the butter.

Divide the risotto among the serving plates and top with a snapper fillet.

Fish stock

MAKES approximately 3.5 litres (14 cups)
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOKING TIME: 1-1½ hours

3 tablespoons olive oil
100 g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) fresh snapper bones (including heads), washed thoroughly and roughly chopped
100 ml (scant ½ cup) dry white wine
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
3 Italian parsley sprigs
Sea salt, to taste


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place all the vegetables in the saucepan and sauté until the leek and onion are soft and translucent. Add the fish bones and sauté for about 5 minutes before adding the wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated, then add 4 litres (16 cups) water, the bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley and sea salt. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and slowly simmer without a lid for 40 minutes. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface throughout the cooking process.

Discard the larger fish bones and strain the liquid through a fine strainer. Strain again through a fine sieve or with muslin to make sure all the bones are removed. Use the broth straight away or refrigerate.

Fish stock can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

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