As I look back on all of the difficult exams I had to take throughout college, accounting, chemistry, nutrition... none of them stand out to me like my risotto final in culinary school. It was simple, all we had to do was make "Risi e Bisi", but make it perfect, under a time constraint, and for our Italian instructor (who literally made risotto on tv a few weeks ago). The good news was, I nailed it. Since then, risotto has been one of my go-to dishes to prepare for people. I love how versatile it is, sometimes I even make it with red wine because I don't usually have white on hand. Yes, the color is quite unattractive as a purple glob of rice sits on your plate, but man does it taste delicious! This recipe below was made using all of the leftovers in my fridge one day and it turned out absolutely great! If you are looking for a cheap, easy, crowd-pleasing summer dinner, look no further!
-Makes 2-3 Servings-
2 cobs of sweet corn, shucked
1 zucchini, cut into pieces about 1/2 inch thick
1 yellow squash, cut into pieces about 1/2 inch thick
1 (10 oz) package grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t lemon zest
1 t lemon juice
1 t oregano
0.25 c olive oil, divided
1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 c arborio rice
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
0.3 c white wine
3 T butter, unsalted and cut into cubes
0.5 c parmesan, grated
0.5 c pine nuts, toasted (divided in half)
0.25 c parmesan, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 c basil leaves
0.25-0.5 c olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with foil. In a medium bowl, toss the sweet corn with red pepper flakes, 1 T olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on one end of the baking sheet. Using the same bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 T olive oil and salt. Spread next to the corn. Finally, toss the zucchini and yellow squash with the remaining 2 T olive oil, lemon zest/juice, oregano, and minced garlic. Spread on the remaining area of the baking sheet and roast the vegetables 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the risotto. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and then hold at a simmer. Have a ladle on hand for it. Then in another medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt. Keep stirring and avoid browning, after a couple of minutes, add the rice and continue stirring until the rice appears translucent. Add the white wine and stir until the smell of alcohol goes away after a few minutes. Put the heat to low. Working one ladle at a time, stir stock into the rice and then cover. Every few minutes, remove the lid and stir. If the stock has nearly evaporated, add another ladle full, stir, and cover.
In the meantime, make the pesto. Using a mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor, blend the pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan together until broken down. Then add the basil leaves and break them down while slowly adding in the olive oil until it reaches desired consistency. Season to taste.
Going back to the risotto, once the rice reaches just under al dente, add the cubes of butter and the grated parmesan. Stir quickly to incorporate the dairy. Add some more stock to keep the risotto creamy and avoid it drying out. Once the risotto is cooked to your liking, remove from the heat, and stir in desired amount of pesto.
To serve, top the risotto with assorted vegetables, pine nuts, basil leaves, and additional parmesan if desired. Enjoy!