Risotto is a wonderful and versatile rice dish that hails from Northern Italy and showcases the best attributes of the short-grain Arborio rice. Sadly, over the years, it's earned a reputation for being difficult to make at home. With the wrong recipe, this is true, but I'm pleased to tell you that there are risotto recipes out there that are authentic, restaurant quality, and downright easy.
Last week in my culinary arts class, I led twelve teams of high school students in making risotto. All twelve teams turned out their risottos to perfection. I'm happy to be sharing our recipe with you today. I adapted our recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Risotto with Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms (March 1994).
Capitalizing on spring colors and flavors, we substituted zucchini and sundried tomatoes for the asparagus and wild mushrooms. We garnished our risotto with toasted pine nuts (for crunch, color and toastiness) and a drizzle of lemon olive oil. The lemon olive oil took the dish to the next level with its brightness.
Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, browned in 1 teaspoon butter, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces fresh sundried tomatoes, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 pound fresh zucchini, washed and cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- Kosher salt
- 3.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth, combined with 3 cups water (at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing
- Lemon infused olive oil for garnish (optional)
- Minced parsley for garnish (optional)
Step 1: In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 teaspoon butter. Saute pine nuts until gold brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 2: Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add zucchini and tomatoes; sauté until zucchini pieces are almost tender and begin to turn yellow (about 7 minute). Stir in ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Remove vegetable mixture to a small bowl covered with foil and set aside.
Step 3: Heat oil in now empty skillet. Add onions; sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions soften (3 to 5 minutes).
Step 4: Stir in rice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste. Add 3 cups of the broth/water mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until pan bottom is dry when rice is pulled back with spoon, 8 to 10 minutes.
Step 5: Add wine, stirring frequently until absorbed. Then add 1/2 cup of the broth/water mixture at a time, stirring constantly and vigorously until each addition is absorbed; cook until rice is creamy but still somewhat firm in center (add water in 1/2 cup increments until broth/water mixture runs out), 10 to 12 minutes longer.
Step 6: Remove from heat and stir in vegetable mixture and cheese. If risotto becomes to stiff, stir in more water or stock to attain desired consistency.
Step 7: To serve, plate and garnish with more grated cheese, toasted pine nuts, minced parsley and a drizzle of lemon olive oil (trust me, you won't regret this addition). Enjoy!
To reheat the next day, warm in a microwave, then stir in a small amount of boiling water or stock till desired consistency is attained.