Although risotto has a reputation for being a bit of a fiddle to make, it’s actually only the stirring that requires any real effort, and you really don’t have to stir for all that long. In fact, I can have a delicious risotto on the table in not much more than thirty to forty minutes. It’s a great dish for using up leftover veggies, and the only limit to the flavours you can create is your own imagination.
For the best risotto, you need to be sure to use a rice specifically made for this dish - a high starch medium or short grain variety as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialoni Nano is best. I get the best results with the latter, but it can be more expensive, and the others do work very well. It’s hard to be really specific about the quantities of liquid, as the amount you need is affected by the vegetables you use, the exact type of rice, and even the weather. You can tell when you have got the correct amount because the rice will be swollen, your risotto will look creamy and when you taste it the rice will be al dente - firm, but soft with a creamy mouth-feel.
This is the vegetable risotto I made the other night, using some vegetables I had that were starting to get a bit past their best. It’s amazing how you can transform them with a bit of stock, flavouring and stirring!
To serve four people
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped in small pieces
1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 cup risotto rice
about 4 cups vegetable stock
1 glass white wine
(or about ½ cup more stock if you prefer to leave out the alcohol)
1 to 2 tablespoons basil pesto
½ cup vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese plus more to serve
Melt the butter over medium to low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté gently, stirring often, until it begins to become translucent. Add the red pepper and zucchini and cook gently for a few minutes.
Stir in the rice, and allow it to get coated in the buttery vegetable mixture. Stir in the white wine until it is absorbed. Now begin adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed.
When you have about a cup of stock left, add the pesto and the cheese and stir through until the cheese melts. Now gradually add the remaining stock, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed, and tasting from time to time until the rice is al dente and tastes creamy.
Serve in warmed bowls, with extra cheese to garnish. Although the rice has plenty of carbs all by itself, if you are feeling indulgent, a basket of warmed rolls is really nice alongside!