As a child, Missoni was scrawny and sickly. Her parents sent her to a school “with a marvelous garden” on the Ligurian coast where she grew robust on the sea air and a diet of fish. The experience seems to have worked — she is as energetic and spry as one could hope to be at any age. Missoni brags about scuba diving for shellfish (“It’s my passion,” she says. “That’s why I have such good lungs and can climb mountains at 85.”) and is tireless in our two-hour tour of the sprawling garden. But her delicate childhood also intimately acquainted her with fashion — kept inside in her youngest days, Missoni passed the time at her grandparents’ factory by making paper dolls from the atelier’s international style magazines. “There among the fabric and the patterns, I learned all about ‘30s fashion, cutting it out in silhouettes,” she says. It was the beginning of a lifelong calling.
Credit Federico Ciamei
Missoni deposits her vegetables, herbs and flowers in the kitchen as the cook begins to prepare risotto and church bells chime the noon hour. Still buzzing around, arranging flowers, carrying chairs from one room to another, and pulling out books to show me designs from the past, Missoni proffers some thoughts on her vitality. “It’s luck, undoubtedly,” she says. “I’ve been passionately dedicated to my career, so it’s never worn me out. I live in the kind of beautiful place where my husband and I wanted to spend our weekends. I have my children close by, and friends that come visit on Sundays.”
It’s a simple recipe for a happy life — and an enduring one. “I’ve been able to overcome even terrible times,” she says, her voice softening as she recounts a year of tragedy. In 2013, a plane carrying her eldest son and his wife disappeared in Venezuela. Ottavio passed away just a few months later. “At least, I’m rarely alone at the table here,” she says, coming back to life.
At lunch, Missoni fills glasses with white wine and takes the head of the table. After rounds of chicory salad, poached eggs, rosemary-topped pizzas, and zucchini risotto, she insists on taking me to the factory next door, where she will spend the rest of the day at work, as she has for over six decades. “We had a lovely morning in the garden, didn’t we?” she says, leading me out by the shoulder. “But my real place is in the office.”
Credit Federico Ciamei
Rosita’s Summer Zucchini Risotto
This risotto eschews the white wine of a traditional recipe to leave the flavor of the fresh vegetables intact. Though best when eaten right after cooking, it makes a great leftover dish as well: risotto saltato, which can be made by pan frying a thin pancake of the risotto with olive oil in a covered, nonstick pan, flipping it when a well-crisped skin develops. “The favorite version of children,” Missoni laughs.
4-5 tablespoons butter
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 pound Carnaroli rice
Meat or vegetable broth
6 small zucchinisA handful of fresh basil and parsley
5 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a pot of broth to a simmer and keep it warm on another burner as you cook.
2. Place a chunk of butter (around 2-3 tablespoons) in a pot with enough depth to cook the rice. Melt over medium heat.
3. Add chopped onions and cook lightly, then add the rice and allow it to toast in the butter for a few minutes.
4. Add four ladles of broth to the rice, then add chopped zucchini.
5. Continue ladling in broth to the rice, stirring all the while, and cook until the texture of the rice is just cooked through (usually around 20-25 minutes).
6. Add the herbs when the heat is off.
7. Stir in the cheese, then add a knob of butter and a dash of oil.
8. Stir to combine and then allow the risotto to sit for a couple of minutes before serving.
Source: New York Times