Time: 45 minutes
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.
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
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!
I love this recipe! I adapted it using barley and it turned out great! http://chenagirlcooks.blogspot.com/2012/08/barley-risotto-with-pesto-and-summer.html
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!
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.
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! 🙂
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 🙂
I wanted to love this, and followed the recipe diligently, but it was too bland for me.
Does the 4 quart pot have 4 quarts of oil in it or is it just a 4 quart pot?
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
Hey! Am going to attempt this tonight. Just wondering though if anyone has frozen risotto befor and if so does it work okay?
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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!
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!
Just made this for tonights dinner. Taste is amazing. How many calories is in this ?