March 15, 2012

Pesto Risotto With Roasted Zucchini

by IsaChandra

Serves 6
Time: 45 minutes

Resto Risotto

Risotto and I have always been fairly sympatico. We have an understanding: I stir you, you get creamy. No big deal. But that was before reality cooking shows.

After one episode of Hell’s Kitchen you’ll be pretty convinced that risotto is the biggest, most backstabbingest heartbreaker there is. It will stop at nothing to betray you. Risotto makes Gordon Ramsey kick the trash can on the regular. It breaks. It burns. It refuses to cook. It jumps out of the pot and shivs you if it given half the chance. Sleep with one eye open.

To add to the anxiety, an episode of Next Food Network star featured Wolfgang Puck storming the kitchen to show a cheftestant how to make a proper risotto. She was, of course, in tears. The kind of tears reserved only for failed risotto. And most risottos are failures! Too stiff, too loose, too everything. It must be true because the canned soup guy says so!

But, wait, there’s a better way: make the risotto the way you prefer. If you’re not on reality TV, it probably won’t break or burn. If you add warm broth and stir it every few minutes it will probably get deliciously creamy. And if you prefer a stiffer risotto, that’s okay. If you want it to be a little more soupy and creamy, that’s okay, too. Just add more broth or maybe some cashew cream. I’m ok. You’re okay. Your risotto is okay.

About this recipe specifically, it’s one of my favorite ways to prepare risotto. Adding pesto in stages, building the flavor, with lots of white wine, creates a really sensual dish that makes you feel pretty fancy and accomplished.

The zuke is very simple, which is just how I like it. Still kind of crunchy but roasty and toasty with lots of garlicky flavor. You can toss it over the top or mix it in, whatever floats your zucchini boat. Then top with extra toasted pine nuts for extra fanciness and nutty texture.

There is at least one golden rule, the broth needs to be warm when you add it. I usually keep my broth warming in a pot on the stovetop like a good girl, but if I’ve got too much going on I’m not against keeping it in a microwave safe bowl and nuking it every now again. You gotta do what you gotta do! In any case, keep the broth warm for best results. At least it will help to ward off the Gordans and Wolfgangs of the world.

For the risotto:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups or so vegetable broth
3/4 cup pesto (I recommend Bestest Pesto, it makes plenty)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on how salty your broth and pesto are, so taste for salt often)
Fresh black pepper

For the zucchini:
1 lb zucchini, cut on on a bias into chunky half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced

Extra toasted pinenuts
Extra pesto for drizzling

Warm the vegetable broth in a saucepan. Keep it warm on the lowest setting possible as you prepare the risotto.

Preheat the oven to 425 F for the zucchini, and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Now let’s make the risotto! Preheat a heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion in oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and use a wooden spoon to stir and coat with oil. Add the white wine and stir occasionally, until wine is mostly absorbed, 4 minutes or so. Add a few dashes fresh black pepper, and half of the salt. Turn the heat down just a bit to medium-low.

Add the broth by the cupful, stirring the risotto after each addition until the broth is mostly absorbed (6 to 8 minutes). After 2 cupfuls, add about half of the pesto and stir well, then continue to cook, adding broth by the cupful, stirring, and letting the liquid absorb.

At some point in there, your oven will be preheated. Toss the zucchini with oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Roast for about 6 minutes on each side, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

With your last addition of broth, add the remainder of the pesto. Taste for salt and add the other 1/4 teaspoon if needed. Risotto is ready when the rice is chewy but still firm, and the sauce is very creamy. For a firmer risotto, just cook a few minutes extra to absorb more of the liquid.

To serve: scoop risotto into each bowl, and top with zucchini. Drizzle with extra pesto and garnish with a few toasted pine nuts.

  • March 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm: Siubhan

    Looks and sounds amazing. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you for sharing!

  • March 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm: Michele

    It says saute onion, but there is no onion on the ingredients list. Otherwise, sounds yummy! Can’t wait to try it!

    • March 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm: IsaChandra

      Thx for catching that! Updated.

  • March 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm: Angela

    Oh god your intro summed up my reasons for not trying to make risotto!!! Maybe this weekend I’ll give it a try… with less anxiety!

  • March 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm: J'aime

    This looks seriously yummy.

    Isa, do you have an opinion on brown arborio rice for risotto? I haven’t tried it but I am intrigued. I’m a huge brown rice fan in general, but will it work for risotto?

  • March 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm: Adam

    i was just about to ask the brown rice question myself.. could a short grain brown rice be substituted? I’m sure it would take much longer, but would it get creamy?

  • March 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm: ileana

    Ooh, I’m also curious about how brown rice would fare in a risotto attempt.

  • March 16, 2012 at 6:45 am: sophia

    seriously! every time i make risotto at home i think about how if tom colicchio saw my risotto he’d probably throw it in my face. cooking risotto on tv is the same as signing your own death warrant, apparently. good thing i’m not an expert so i can enjoy my failed risotto!

  • March 16, 2012 at 11:14 am: Talisen

    Looks amazing – thanks
    Can’t believe you now have a microwave!

  • March 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm: Julie Ann @ Buy Electric Shaver

    I am not the bravest in the kitchen but maybe I was missing the key about heating the broth. Risotto is not usually my friend. I am going to brave it for one more try! Thank you for the recipe and the cooking tips!

  • March 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm: Nili

    I am definitely going to try this. I have made 2 risottos since going vegan…a butternut squash and toasted sage risotto and a wild mushroom and thyme risotto. Keeping the liquid warm is definitely the key to getting the risotto creamy and at a perfect al dente texture. Thank you for this wonderful and easy recipe! I promise not to kick any trashcans in the making of this recipe! :)

  • March 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm: Abigail

    I just made this! I added chickpeas, basil tofu, and marinated cherry tomatoes. I’m eating it as I type this and I no longer fear making risotto! It’s really rich and creamy…perfect! If anyone has brown rice instruction, I’m intrigued…Thanks for another great recipe, Isa!

  • March 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm: missbear

    Thank you thank you thank you – my first dish as a teen cook with my amazing cook of a mom, god rest her soul, was risotto. It was delicious and simple. Then I watch master chef and such drivel and am scared stiff, thinking mine must surely be chalky/stiff/gloopy etc. Nope, I make a damn fine risotto and those tv judge/chef types like to make out that theirs is the only good one. Thanks for making me confided again! Looking forward to trying this x

    • March 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm: IsaChandra

      Yes, that’s the spirit!

  • March 17, 2012 at 11:49 am: Sharon

    i was mortified when i saw wolfgang puck walk that poor lady back in the kitchen to teach her how to make risotto. sheesh it’s risotto CALM DOWN i wanted to say to him. Anyway love risotto, incidentally i’ve never had a pesto risotto. looks good

  • March 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm: Nikki

    I just use steel-cut oats instead of rice; much easier to get the texture “right”. Although I have little patience for purists so I might go make some with the wrong texture just to piss people off. BwaHA!

  • March 18, 2012 at 9:13 am: Maureen

    After many semi-failed risottos I made one a few days ago and it was great. Difference (for me) was to actually stir it all the time to help break down the starch. In the past I would pass by the pan and stir it every few minutes. Thanks for a great looking recipe Isa – going to try it next week. Husband won’t eat risotto more than once every couple of weeks!

  • March 19, 2012 at 1:26 am: The Cozy Herbivore

    Yum! I love pesto, and I think it would make a great addition to a risotto. This looks creamy and delicious– and incredibly STRESS FREE, just the way it should be. :)

  • March 19, 2012 at 2:39 am: Miranda

    Delish – I can’t wait to make this! I have never attempted a brown rice risotto, but barely works like a champ and adds flavor!

  • March 19, 2012 at 5:49 am: Darris

    YUM!! I have one last jar of homemade pesto left . . . and YES, brown rice works great. I don’t fuss with adding as the rice cooks. I wait about 30 minutes (with brown rice) and add a bit more broth for a creamier texture. The pesto will also add creaminess . . .

  • March 19, 2012 at 8:25 am: Melody Holmes

    Amazing recipe! I made this for dinner tonight and the whole family loved it. I’m never entirely confident when putting new food in front of our four year old but tonight all I heard was “chomp chomp chomp”. This will definitely be a regular dinner for us. Thanks!

  • March 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm: Marthe

    I’m not a risotto lover, but this one, I tried and… I love it!

  • March 20, 2012 at 1:53 am: Courtney B

    Isa, this was wonderful, thanks so much.

  • March 20, 2012 at 4:41 am: Mamasalli Bonz

    Right on, Isa! It’s your risodeo!!!

  • March 22, 2012 at 1:00 am: Jennie Amias

    Wow! Delicious!! I made it with brown rice, and it was truly yummy!

  • March 22, 2012 at 2:06 am: andy

    OMG this was simply amazing…

  • March 24, 2012 at 1:21 am: Chelley

    I braved my first risotto a couple of months ago after too many reality shows telling me that risotto must be the most impossible dish to make on the planet. I was more nervous than I have been about cooking anything. I made a friend (who doesn’t own a tv and couldn’t understand why I assumed risotto was terrifying) talk me through it. It was ridiculously easy. Glad I finally got brave and stopped imagining tv chefs knocking down my door and telling me it was crap and I should never cook again.
    Must try this addition of pesto. Great idea.

  • March 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm: Matt

    Hey Isa, would the edamame pesto from AFR work well in this? I was trying to figure out if it would be the perfect amazing creaminess here, or too thick for the rice to handle…

    • March 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm: IsaChandra

      It’ll be good! Although I would just add it all at the end in stead of in stages.

  • March 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm: Amber

    Looks good… I have a huge bag of rice in my cupboard and zucchini in the frigde. I think this on the menu for tomorrow night. Yummy.

  • March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm: Jenn

    I was so excited when I saw this, couldn’t wait to make. It came out so delcious, even the carinore boyfriend loved it. This was so awesome. <3

  • March 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm: tanyakristine

    God. you’re so funny! you’ve stole my life! a funny, charming, successful, famous author/chef!

  • April 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm: Brad

    This was really really good. Thank you.

  • April 2, 2012 at 4:27 am: Kim

    Made this last night, omgosh so good. Perfect, turned out amazing. I just enjoyed it cold for lunch today – just as delicious! Will definately make again, soon!

  • April 2, 2012 at 4:28 am: Kim

    PS the garlic zucchini! WOW, so garlicy and creamy!

  • April 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm: FullFlavoredLife

    Cannot wait to try this. It looks delicious!

  • April 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm: Lauren

    OMG I just made this for lunch! My boyfriend and I cried while we were eating it, it was so delicious! Gracias amiga!

  • April 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm: Kate

    I can’t thank you enough for this recipe! It is sooooooooo good and was a hit at our Easter dinner! <3

  • April 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm: Camren

    How does one reheat risotto?

  • April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am: Madison @Veggieful

    I have never made risotto before. I feel really embarrassed saying that but it is the truth! I will try this ASAP. :D

  • April 14, 2012 at 8:02 am: nadia

    Camren, my favourite thing to dowith leftover risotto (sometimes i make extra on purpose!) is to roll it up in my hands into little patties and fry them up. Sometimes i coat them in bread crumbs, a kinda homemade leftovers arancino. have with salad or just as a snack

  • April 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm: amie

    I made this the other night for a dinner party. Rich and super delicious!

  • April 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm: Shayna

    One of the reasons why I love Isa Chandra’s recipes is because she incorporates pesto and basil into as many things as possible, much like myself! XD

  • May 1, 2012 at 1:26 am: Amy L

    Mind and palate blown! This is so good I’m at a loss for words. Thanks for sharing.

  • May 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm: JenNifer

    I made this a few weeks ago for my mom who usually asks “Is this one of your vegetarian dishes?”. Last week she asked me to make it again! She also enjoyed the cauliflower/soba noodles bowl (although she didn’t care for the lentils). I’m breaking through!

  • May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm: Monique

    Speaking of pesto, I just made the Vegan Brunch’s Pesto Scrambled Tofu with Tomatoes. It was soooooo good!

  • May 16, 2012 at 7:30 am: Margaret

    Wow!! Love pesto!!

  • June 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm: Melissa

    Oh, hey, I wrote something about how reality TV makes risotto seem so hard on my own blog in 2011, check it out: Adventures In Stirring

  • July 12, 2012 at 1:04 am: Melissa

    Wow – I’ve been dreaming about this dish ever since I first saw the recipe listed on your site, and it’s every bit as good as it looks. Thanks for making dinner spectacular once again!

  • August 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm: Heidi Drygas

    I love this recipe! I adapted it using barley and it turned out great!

  • August 11, 2012 at 8:54 am: Mina

    This looks amazing.

    You have made going vegan so easy; last night my mum came over and I made cauliflower pesto soup and chickpea piccata over wild rice with rocket and salty maple carrots. The first thing I did this morning is slink into the kitchen and practically inhale the remaining leftovers!

  • September 2, 2012 at 6:15 am: glorybug

    I didn’t use your recipe (because I’d already looked at a few sites/recipes, and decided to just wing it and just guessed). I’d already decided to start with 1 1/2 cups rice (there’s only two of us) 4 cups broth, and a half-cup wine, so what I did was very similar to your recipe. The only thing really different is that I added 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast while cooking, and instead of pesto. I had added chopped thyme and basil from my yard.

    I found your recipe while I was already cooking my own ‘toss-together’. I topped it with sauteed brown mushrooms and asparagus, but I will try zuccini next time.

    What I wanted to thank you for was the tip about keeping the broth warm while you are adding it. It seems like a no-brainer now that I think about it, but it didn’t occur to me that I was cooling down my risotto each time I added liquid. Once I heated the broth up. it went much faster. None of the other sites gave that tip.

    Since I came up with a similar recipe, I have no doubt that yours is good as well. and will write yours down for future reference.

    Pretty ridiculous that Ramsey serves risotto in all his restaurants and that somebody muffs it up every time, even though you know they start with par-boiled arborio… a little to coincidental, if you ask me. If I could do it perfect the very first time I tried from scratch, it must not be that hard. Ramsey must think ‘ordinary’ people will be impressed by the word ‘risotto’ or something.

  • September 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm: Ashley

    Can this be done with short-grain brown rice instead of traditional arborio? I know it wouldn’t be a true risotto, but I’m trying to think of healthier alternatives while still being able to enjoy risotto-ish dishes. Thank you! :)

  • September 20, 2012 at 4:20 am: Ashley

    Good Lawd I’m in trouble. This is amazing!!!! I was worried about subbing the brown rice in a little while ago, but I went for it, and I’m in love. Weak-in-the-knees sort of love. I would even eat this cold. In fact, I dreaming of pesto risotto lettuce cups as I type….with little cubes of the basic broiled tofu from VCON…Mmm! Thank you for continually reassuring me that vegan cooking can be everything I want it to be: healthy…but mostly DELICIOUS :)

  • October 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm: BJ

    I wanted to love this, and followed the recipe diligently, but it was too bland for me.

  • November 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm: Izzy

    Does the 4 quart pot have 4 quarts of oil in it or is it just a 4 quart pot?

  • November 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm: Izzy

    This turned out AMAZING! The Zucchini should be put in a little earlier, but It tasted DELICOUS! Thank you! I will deffinently make this again!

  • December 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm: Renee

    Yum!!! This was my first risotto attempt. Incredibly delicious. I was really amazed at how creamy it got. After I added all the pesto and broth, the rice was still a bit too chewy, soI simply added another 1/4-1/2 cup of water and let that absorb and then it was perfect. I added some sun-dried tomatoes to the mix, which added a great texture. Will be making this again soon. I only wish I had doubled the recipe, because although it was very FILLING, it was barely enough to feed two hungry people.

  • January 30, 2013 at 3:50 am: Hanna

    This turned out perfectly. I mean, PERFECTLY. Very creamy and rich. I used jasmine rice in place of the arborio, just due to my preference for jasmine rice. I also substituted a cup of vegetable broth and a splash of balsamic vinegar in place of the white wine. I topped mine with roasted cauliflower instead of zucchini. Perfect!

  • July 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm: Leek

    For those concerned about brown risotto rice – mine is still cooking and we are coming up to TWO HOURS – so yeah, i imagine all that brown risotto rice goodness takes longer to absorb/i’m doing something wrong!

  • August 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm: Cody Doyle

    This is the best recipe I’ve ever read. 1. because you started the intro with exactly the way I was feeling about attempting this HUGE feat called Risotto. I first didn’t even KNOW what risotto was made from UNTIL, I wanted to make it. I was dumbfounded, as I figured it’d for sure be located in the grocery store next to the quinoa other grains. RIGHT? Nope. And no I didn’t ask anyone. So the second time I went to the store, again, stumped. I used my phone (GOOD IDEA) and looked up Risotto, and the the mysteries it beholds. That’s how I discovered it’s made with Arborio Italian rice. Who knew? OK, probably millions of people, but not me. I’d never even hear of it, even being the cooking show aficionado that I am. Needless to say, everything I’ve read since has made it seem like there is a magic formula, or there is NO way to make a good risotto. And I didn’t want to make just ANY risotto either – I wanted to make PESTO…and VIOLA – your recipe is the first one I saw, and it made my day. With that, I thank you and will let you know how mine turns out. CHEERS!

  • September 25, 2013 at 4:01 am: Kmbustos1023

    I’ve made this and absolutely loved it! But I have a question. I am hosting dinner soon and I am planning on serving this. Any suggestions as to what to serve along side of it? I’m just awful at menu planning! Oh, and I have to avoid mushrooms since one of the guests are allergic. I would appreciate any input. Thanks in advance!

  • December 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm: Sara

    Hey! Am going to attempt this tonight. Just wondering though if anyone has frozen risotto befor and if so does it work okay?

  • October 22, 2014 at 11:01 am: Stefanie

    What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found
    It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I am hoping
    to contribute & aid other customers like its aided me. Good job.

  • March 3, 2015 at 7:39 pm: Alex

    I’m kinda obsessed with this risotto. I made some for me and my omnivore bf and we each had a bowlful for dinner, and I made panko-risotto cakes for a week afterwards. It took me about 1.5x as long to make as I expected so leave some extra time if you can!

  • September 6, 2016 at 1:04 am: tom

    Risotto makes Gordon Ramsey kick the trash can on the regular. It breaks. It burns. It refuses to cook. It jumps out of the pot and shivs you if it given half the chance. Sleep with one eye open.

    LOL!!! I love how you write- so funny!