Spring is long gone, I know, but I really needed to use up some frozen peas and Arborio rice. Thankfully, you can get good zucchini in the grocery store pretty much year round, so Spring Risotto with Peas and Zucchini from the April 2004 issue of Everyday Food seemed like a good addition to the weekly menu. This doesn’t compare to restaurant risotto (at least not the risotto at Taverna here in Dallas!), but it’s pretty good. Plus, the smell of fresh zucchini cooking in butter is positively intoxicating!
This risotto recipe is pretty traditional, meaning the hands-on time is significant. You might save this one for the weekend or a leisurely weeknight.
First, I prepped my veggies. I cut 1 pound of zucchini into 1/2-inch cubes, finely chopped an onion, and set 1 cup of frozen peas in a colander to thaw. I also grated 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.
In a small saucepan, I combined 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) of reduced-sodium chicken broth and 2 1/2 cups of water. I set the pan over low heat so the liquid would be warm when I was ready to add it to the Arborio rice. In a separate 3-quart saucepan, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. I added the zucchini, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked it – stirring often – until it was golden (about 10 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, I transferred the zucchini to a plate and then set it aside.
I reduced the skillet heat to medium-low and added the chopped onion. I cooked it, stirring often, until it was soft (5 minutes). I seasoned the onion with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and then raised the skillet heat to medium. I added 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice and cooked it, stirring almost constantly, until it was translucent around the edges (3 minutes). Next, I added 1/2 cup of dry white wine (I used Chardonnay) and cooked the mixture until it was absorbed (2 minutes).
This is were the real labor begins!
For the next 30 minutes, I hovered over my stove, adding the warm chicken broth-water mixture 1 cup at a time. After each cup of liquid, I stirred the mixture (almost constantly) until it was almost entirely absorbed before adding the next cup.
When those 30 minutes had passed, I had added all of the broth mixture and my rice was tender. I added the cooked zucchini and thawed peas and cooked until the peas were bright green (2 minutes). I removed the risotto from the heat, stirred in 1 tablespoon of butter and the grated Parmesan, and then grated a bit more Parmesan over the top to serve.
If you’re looking for veggie-based comfort food, this is a pretty good option. The Arborio rice gets so creamy, and I love the buttery taste of the zucchini. Parmesan cheese never hurts, either!
TIPS: As always, use wine that is good enough to drink when you cook. If you don’t want to use wine, you could substitute an equal amount of water or chicken broth.
Recipe link: Spring Risotto with Peas and Zucchini