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The inner world of Antonia Klugmann: gestures, technique, ideas and a surprising risotto non-risotto

In her lesson at Identità Milano 2023 - extraordinary as usual - the chef discusses nature and her own nature. And then presents a risotto mixed with soaked rice cream: in this way, she overcomes the barriers of temperature

Antonia Klugmann: as always, her lecture at Identi

Antonia Klugmann: as always, her lecture at Identità Milano 2023 yesterday was very interesting. All photos are by Brambilla-Serrani

How does one come to conceive of a 'risotto' (non risotto) mixed with rice (uncooked. This, for example, is a whole different technique)), i.e. without butter and Parmigiano, subverting the sacred manuals of Italian cuisine without any subversive intention?

There is nothing in Antonia Klugmann's way of being a cook that does not originate in her own inner world. There is no technique for the sake of technique. Thoughts and gestures are enveloped in the same magma, one generating the other. The final outcome is the result of a pitiless simplification insofar as it leaves behind the cook and her sturm und drang to the advantage - clearly - of the dish and the final interlocutor of a dialogue that begins in places far away from the pass.

Klugmann with Carlo Passera, who moderated the lecture

Klugmann with Carlo Passera, who moderated the lecture

The poetics of the woman at the helm of L'Argine a Vencò, who seduces with a singular mixture of virginal candour, muscularity of unparalleled technical robustness and creative processes that are both troubled and astonishing not only in terms of taste, starts with a tribute of gratitude to some masters. On the one hand, Luigi Ghirri, the photographer of Viaggio in Italia, a poet of the suburbs and of everyday paths.  "When they asked him which camera he used to photograph, he replied that the camera was just a toy, of no importance compared to the gaze and the vision". For Klugmann-Ghirri, gaze and vision can overturn perspectives, restore meaning to otherwise customary paths to the point of becoming invisible whips, "a bit like the always-identical raw materials that uses a cook.” Another tribute of love and gratitude is for Bruno Munari. And finally for Fulvio  Pierangelini: “In the simplification of the gesture he has found the key to his cuisine, with the result of achieving so much from so little.” Seemingly distant, yet corresponding fields of action: “It is the same thing that fascinated me in Ghirri. It has to do with the neatness of thought.” See? What could be more revolutionary than such a perfect coincidence capable of restoring 'karstic' depth in a subject like cooking, removing it from trivial aesthetic exercises or, worse, from the drifts of the avant-garde?

From these volutes comes Antonia Klugmann's Cauliflower and juniper 'Risotto' (the inverted commas are essential). The (Carnaroli) rice is mixed with a cream of rice previously soaked in cold water and left to rest. The cauliflower milk adds a further contribution to the thickening of the ingredients. While the finish of the dish is entrusted to wild pepper and juniper, which give (together with a bay leaf) a three-note balsamic boost. The rationale behind the operation achieved by subtraction?  “I didn't want to give a new take on Italian risotto, but to make the most of two ingredients, cauliflower and rice. A step backwards in favour of taste that justifies the technique.”

Antonia Klugmann with her collaborators Gabriele Grana and Pierpaolo Petrone

Antonia Klugmann with her collaborators Gabriele Grana and Pierpaolo Petrone

Juniper, incidentally, reigns at L'Argine in Vencò, where nothing passes under the cook's eyes without deserving a glance, a chance. Like the chance offered by a risotto non-risotto made without butter and Parmigiano, i.e. to be served even at room temperature, and subtracted from old dogmas. Even so, on the quiet, a revolution is being made. Not only in the kitchen.

Postil. In a different room, a little earlier, Marco Ambrosino presented his Pasta mista più pasta fermentata. Again, not an exercise in style but the creative reuse of leftover pasta that becomes a thickening and seasoning ingredient. The intention, in this case, is to cut down on waste. The outcome, otherwise revolutionary.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

IG2023: ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has been served


Sonia Gioia

A journalist by profession, curious by vocation, she applies her attitude to investigative reports and food features. She's author for Repubblica, Gambero Rosso, Dispensa​


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