Dish of the Week: Summer Risotto

There's nothing like a plate of creamy, velvety risotto.
There's nothing like a plate of creamy, velvety risotto.
Photo by Luca Nebuloni

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, it's all about risotto.

Risotto is a classic Italian rice dish that is slow-cooked in broth until creamy and decadent. It is typically made using Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or other short grain varieties of rice that are high in starch and conducive to absorption, ensuring a velvetty consistency throughout.

Though the slow-cooking method may seem intimidating, with a few simple steps, is easy to perfect. And once you have it down, the flavor possibilities are endless.

First, soffrito -- the flavor base typically consisting of minced onion and other aromatics and spices -- is sauteed in a healthy amount of fat (butter and/or olive oil) until softened and fragrant. Next, the rice is mixed in so that each grain is coated in tostatura (fat). Just when the rice is lightly toasted, the pan is deglazed with a splash of wine to scrape up any caramelized bits.

Adding hot stock slowly is just one of the tricks to perfecting risotto.
Adding hot stock slowly is just one of the tricks to perfecting risotto.
Photo by Molly Dunn

When the rice has absorbed the wine, hot stock is gradually added in small amounts. The mixture is gently stirred, loosening the starches as the rice absorbs the hot liquid. This process is repeated several times before being taken off the heat for the final step, mantecatura. Here, diced cold butter (and often grated cheese) is added and the mixture is vigorously stirred.

In the end, the texture should be smooth and incredibly creamy texture, while the rice remains al dente (firm to the tooth or bite).

The simple process lends itself to a variety of flavors. This recipe, from Cooking Light, uses asparagus, peas, summer squash and lemon to make a light and bright risotto that is perfect for summer.

Summer Lemon-Vegetable Risotto serves 4

Ingredients 8 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces 8 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half 5 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 1 (8-oz) zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices 1 (8-oz) yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices 4 3/4 cups organic vegetable broth 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice 1/4 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino-Romano cheese 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives 1 tsp grated lemon zest 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tbsp unsalted butter 1/4 tsp salt


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add asparagus and peas and cook for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add zucchini and squash to pan and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute to toast, stirring constantly. Stir in wine and cook until liquid is absorbed (about 30 seconds), stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/4 cup broth and set aside.

Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in vegetables; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup broth and remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing until mixture is even and creamy.

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