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.