An Easy Vegetable Risotto To Celebrate the Summer Harvest
Even many accomplished home chefs are intimidated by the idea of cooking risotto – that classic, creamy and rich rice dish from Italy. In actuality, risotto is not that difficult to make at all, it just requires your complete attention while cooking and a little advance planning to ensure your risotto comes out as delicious as possible. Risotto can be made with almost any combination of ingredients, but when the mid-summer vegetable harvest comes along, nothing can be more delicious than a tasty roasted summer vegetable risotto.
Here you will find some basic information on risotto and what makes it different from other kinds of rice dishes, as well as my own recipe for a simple but delicious vegetarian risotto dish. This risotto makes for an excellent light summer dinner, or can be served as a first course of a more formal, multi-course meal.
An Introduction to Risotto
Risotto is a classic Italian dish where rice is cooked with broth to a creamy and rich consistency. Whereas most rice dishes involve cooking the rice, covered, with a certain amount of water or broth to a firm texture, the rice in a risotto dish is prepared while slowly and gradually adding broth throughout the cooking process. A high-starch rice grain such as Aborio is typically used, as it can absorb liquid and release starches to achieve the final classical risotto texture and taste. Risotto generally includes cheese and onion as part of its base ingredients, but may also include mushrooms, peas, shrimp, wine, tomatoes…the possibilities are nearly endless.
In Italy, risotto is often served as a first course – a modest-sized dish or plate as an alternative to a pasta “primi piatti”. One exception to this is risotto alla milanese, a saffron and parmesan risotto generally served alongside ossobuco (veal shank braised with vegetables) in Milan. However, risotto can be satisfying and rich enough to serve as a single course for dinner, perhaps with a refreshing fresh salad and some crusty fresh bread.
The following recipe can be adjusted for whatever fresh summer vegetables are available from your local farmers market – or perhaps growing in your backyard! However, be sure to include some onions for classic risotto flavor, and try to include a variety of colors (green, red, purple, and/or yellow vegetables) for a visual as well as delicious taste treat.
In Northern Italy, it is more common to use butter in cooking the risotto than olive oil; you can also use a mixture of both, depending on your tastes.
Any leftover roast vegetables are perfect to use the next day on a sandwich, tossed with fresh-cooked pasta, on a salad or just warmed up for a side dish.
Roasted Summer Vegetable Risotto
- Prep time: 20 min
- Cook time: 30 min
- Ready in: 50 min
- Yields: 6 as a first course
- 2 cloves whole but peeled garlic
- 1 eggplant (preferably Sicilian)
- 1 -2 bell peppers (different colors)
- 1 large ripe tomato
- 1 yellow summer squash or zucchini
- 1 large onion
- 1 1/3 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of mixed fresh herbs
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Meanwhile, prepare vegetables by cutting into large yet consistently-sized pieces, about 1-inch each.
Toss the vegetables with olive oil, pepper and sea salt. Arrange in a roasting pan or casserole and roast in oven for 20 minutes, tossing vegetables once or twice during cooking. Cooking time may vary based on the types of vegetables used; when done, the vegetables should be tender but not mushy, and have a nice char on them.
Meanwhile, prepare risotto. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepot. Add rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes to thoroughly coat the rice grains in oil. Add 1/2 cup of broth and continue cooking until broth is absorbed, stirring constantly.
Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, as the broth is absorbed by the rice. Keep an eye on the heat, to make sure the rice isn’t burning or sticking to the bottom of the pot. The rice should be thoroughly cooked and have absorbed all of the broth in approximately 25 minutes.
Gently mix in the grated parmesan cheese and the roasted vegetables. You may not wish to use all of the vegetables, or to present some additionally on the side. Serve immediately.