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Basil Pesto Risotto

La Vie Piquant

La vie piquant—the spicy life!  Everyday is filled with “piquant” moments that are pleasantly stimulation of exciting to the mind.  Whether it is in the form of food, style, design, love, entertaining, or any other inspiring idea or tangible object, “it” should be celebrated!  Here I will be sharing with you simple, beautiful, realistic, doable, and truly re-creatable recipes, entertaining ideas, and home décor pizzazz that will help you interject a little bit of “piquant” into your life – after all, we only live once.  Join me in living la vie piquant!

Basil Pesto Risotto

Marc J. Sievers

Risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods, and is probably one of the most versatile things you can make at home.  The base is always Arborio rice—an Italian short grain rice with a creamy and chewy texture—and brought to life with stock and other fresh ingredients.  If in your pantry you have Arborio rice, fresh herbs, left over vegetables (raw or cooked), and a bit of stock or broth, then an easy and cozy dinner can be ready in under 30 minutes (I love that!).  This would also make a fabulous side dish when paired with something like Crispy Eggplant - Oven Style.  

For my Basil Pesto Risotto, I chose to make a version of homemade pesto, swapping out some of the olive oil for heavy cream.  Using all oil made the finished dish too oily, but the addition of heavy cream made the risotto slightly creamy and more elegant.  Because fresh basil and peas are available in most grocery stores year round, take the extra time to make the pesto from scratch, and shuck the peas by hand—you will be amazed at the difference it makes when it comes to flavor and satisfaction!

Happy risotto-making!


Basil Pesto Risotto

Ingredients for the Pesto

  • Basil Leaves – 1½ cups, fresh, lightly packed
  • Garlic – 1 clove, peeled
  • Sliced Almonds – 3 teaspoons
  • Heavy Cream – 3 tablespoons
  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons
  • Parmesan Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions for the Pesto

  1. Place all of the ingredients into the glass jar of a blender and puree until mostly smooth.  Set aside.

Ingredients for the Risotto (serves 2)

  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted
  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Yellow Onion – 1 cup, ¼-inch diced
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked
  • Italian Arborio Rice – ½ cup
  • Vegetable Stock – 1 ½ cups, barely simmering
  • Basil Pesto – *Recipe above
  • Green Peas – ½ cup, freshly shucked
  • Lemon Zest – ½ teaspoon
  • Parmesan Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions for the Risotto

  1. Place the fresh (or frozen) peas in a bowl of very hot tap water for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a small Dutch oven heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add the onions, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the Arborio rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, until lightly toasted.
  4. Next, pour the hot stock over the onion and rice mixture and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 18 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once almost all of the liquid is absorbed by the rice, turn off the heat and stir in the pesto sauce, peas, and lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

Idea:  If you do not have a small Dutch oven, any 10-inch skillet with a tight fitting lid will work just fine. 

Tip:  If you want to make this ahead of time and serve it later, reheat over low heat with a few tablespoon of heavy cream.  This will allow the rice to be warmed through without becoming dried out.

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