Ina Garten's Bold Ingredient For Crab Risotto

Homemade risotto is the kind of dish we love for so many reasons. It's a one-pot wonder that is both filling and delicious that can be customized to satisfy a variety of eaters. If you are unfamiliar with this Italian staple, risotto is a creamy rice dish that, at its most basic, is made with short-grain rice, stock, a little butter, and some parmesan cheese. Of course, if you want to get a little more creative, there are other ingredients you can add to the dish, like mushrooms, peas, bacon, chicken, or even tomatoes and basil.

Many celebrity chefs count this as a favorite dish, including Ina Garten. Garten's seafood version of this Italian meal, which is a crab risotto, has the internet swooning. In an instructional video via Food Network to make her fresh crab and pea risotto, the Barefoot Contessa revealed she uses arborio rice as the base of this dish. The celebrity cook said, "Arborio rice really has the right amount of starchiness for risotto. It's got a creaminess when you're done that really is perfect for this dish." She also notes that ensuring each grain of rice is coated with butter is key to achieving that creaminess. But what really has us talking about Garten's crab and pea risotto recipe is a rather bold ingredient choice.

It tastes like anise

Ina Garten shared in a YouTube video (via Food Network) that one of the most important ingredients she uses to really make the flavor, or her crab and pea risotto pop, is fennel. The Food Network star can be seen melting butter and olive oil in her green Dutch oven, to which she adds fennel, shallots, and poblano peppers. Garten explains as she cooks, "You want this risotto to have great flavor."

Why fennel, though? According to The New York Times, fennel is described as a "bulbous vegetable" that you could easily mistake for celery. It's crunchy like celery, too; however, the taste of this vegetable is quite different from celery and tastes more like anise. Anise, per The Spruce Eats, is a spice that has a bit of a licorice flavor to it. The similarity in taste between fennel and anise stems from the fact they are from the same plant family. In addition, The New York Times shared that seafood with fennel is especially delicious, bringing a dish together.

But what about those poblano peppers in Garten's crab and pea risotto? She explains in the video, "They're kind of warm. They're not really, really hot, and it's just kind of a little kick. You don't want boring risotto."