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Creamy Zucchini and Pistachio Risotto for Early Spring



a photo of the final dish - a green rice dish in a white bowl
ta da!


The last week here in Toronto has been dark and rainy and all I wanted was a cozy bowl of risotto. Risotto is one of those dishes that is both satisfying to eat and to make. I actually used to teach risotto skills classes and loved getting to spend my day talking about how to properly care for your little pot of rice. So special.


I was craving it all week and was excited to make it Friday night. I purposely leave my menu plan blank for Friday to Sunday to slot in these cravings and inspirations that come up - it's a set up I always recommend!


I wanted my comfort in a bowl but I also really wanted something that might manifest spring and sunnier days. So, green risotto was an obvious choice. I've done a pea puree and a kale puree but never zucchini so I thought I should try. I also had some mint and peas from a pea salsa situation (I'll share this one soon!), which both seemed perfect for this. I took one final scan in my fridge for anything green and found pistachio butter and then I knew I was really onto something.


I made my classic risotto but added this vibrantly coloured and flavoured zucchini puree in the last minutes of cooking and the whole thing was everything I was looking for. The fact that it came with this proud creative bonus was just what I needed to lift myself from a rainy slump. And I had a great weekend afterwards so, maybe this super creamy zucchini risotto just set my weekend on the right foot.


You'll want to pay special attention to the directions here because all my most important risotto secrets are being revealed!


Ingredients

-salt and pepper

-olive oil

-1 medium onion, finely chopped

-2 large zucchini, chopped into chunks

-2 garlic cloves, minced

-a few mint leaves

-1 tbsp pistachio butter

-1.5 cup arborio rice

-about 1/2 cup white wine

-about 8 cups broth

-3/4 cup peas, blanched

-2-4 tbsp unsalted butter

-a few handfuls grates parmigiano and pecorino cheeses

-crushed pistachios to garnish


Directions


Use a wide shallow pan, this will allow for more even cooking. Add olive oil and warm it to sautee the onions. The onions should be chopped quite small so they don't overpower the rice when you're eating it. Salt right away to draw out moisture and add flavour. Once they're quite soft, add the zucchini and another pinch of salt and pepper. The zucchini should be quite soft as well and since you're pureeing it all it doesn't have to look pretty. Add the garlic in the last few minutes of cooking and sautee.


Meanwhile, heat the broth in a pot over medium heat. Keep it at a low simmer throughout. Note if you run out of broth you can use water, just make sure it's hot.


Transfer this mixture to a blender and add some broth to help it move along. Add the mint and pistachio butter and blend until very smooth. Season to taste and set aside.


In the same pan, heat some olive oil and toast the rice. Note this is maybe the only rice you don't rinse first because any starch on the outside of the grain is going to help thicken the risotto. Toasting the rice helps with flavour but also to open the outer layer of the grain and let the liquid in. Do this just a few minutes, don't burn the rice.


Add the white wine and allow to cook out completely. Now start adding the broth in about 1 cup increments at a time. Note your first addition can be larger (about 2 cups). You want the rice to never be dry but never be swimming in broth either. You'll need to taste a few grains of rice quite often, especially if you're new to this. This will help you understand how it cooks and what you're tasting for


As you cook, stir gently and fairly consistently. Don't be scared to leave it alone, but don't go too far. Especially as you get to the end of cooking you don't want to stir too vigorously or you'll break the starches. I like to shake and swirl the pan to distribute the heat, rice and broth evenly. You'll notice the grains swell as you cook and the broth will get starchier. The whole thing will go from rice and broth to sort of one cohesive mixture.


Your goal doneness is rice with just a bit of texture, slightly al dente but not crunchy or hard and certainly not mushy. You can also look for cues in how the rice moves. It should not get stuck or clumpy and it should not be soupy. If you swipe your spoon across the pan, you should be able to part the risotto in the center but it should slowly come back together. When you swirl the pan by the handle it should move like a wave.


Ultimately though, this is your rice, so you can cook it as you wish.


When it's a few minutes from being done, add the zucchini mixture and combine well. Season with salt and pepper then add the butter and cheese. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Wait 2-5 minutes (if you can wait) and give a gentle stir. When you plate the risotto, it should move slowly across the plate. If it's stiff in the spoonful you dropped it in, loosen it with more broth.


Serve with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and more grated cheese. Congratulations, you've just made a delicious risotto.


-olivia x

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