A Summer Risotto, with Zucchini and Pesto

Zucchini Pesto Risotto

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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  • 1.5 shallots, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1.5 cups arborio rice
  • 1 medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp pesto
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish


Sauté the shallots and garlic in the olive oil until fragrant, but not yet brown. Add the rice, and stir constantly until the rice has started to become translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and stir continuously until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring regularly between each pour, and waiting until the liquid has been mostly absorbed between adds. Once the rice has reached almost the desired consistency (~3 cups of broth), add the zucchini and stir gently into the risotto. Add the remaining broth in the same manner as the rest, until the desired consistency is reached, then remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Turn out into a serving platter, top with the basil and pesto, and serve.

And now for the details…

I love risotto. It is one of my favourite dishes. But I don’t make it often. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s a bit demanding. Seriously, talk about high maintenance. It requires regular attention from the moment you start cooking, needing to add the liquid bit by bit, and stir regularly to ensure you don’t end up with a layer of dried or burnt rice coating the bottom of the pot. And because you add the liquid gradually, the cooking time is usually 20-30 minutes of unceasing hovering like a helicopter mom to ensure the result is as desired. But that result? Pure deliciousness. A creamy, lustrous texture, with tiny “popping” bites of rice grain centres.

Risotto seems to go great with vegetables. And for this particular recipe, I had some nice zucchini in the fridge that seemed to be calling to be added. To bump the flavour up even more, I chose to top this off with some pesto (bought, I regret to say, I got a bit lazy with that one) and some fresh basil.

Let’s get to cooking. We will start by heating the broth. In a small to medium pot, heat your broth on low heat and hold it on low heat for the duration of the cooking. I used turkey broth, since I has some homemade broth in the freezer, and I find that turkey broth adds additional richness to the risotto. But a chicken broth would work, or a vegetable broth if you would like to make this a vegetarian dish.

Once the broth is heating on the stove, mince the garlic and shallots, and spiralize your zucchini. Set the zucchini aside, and add the garlic and shallots to a second pot, with the oil, on medium heat. Stir until fragrant and the shallots have slightly softened. Then, add the arborio rice and stir. Continue to cook and stir until the majority of the rice kernels have turned translucent, with just a bit of opaqueness in the middle of the kernel, about 1-2 minutes. Why do we cook the rice dry before adding our liquid? From the research I have done, it is to end up with a slightly skin around the rice kernel, to ensure the rice maintains a bit of that “bite”, instead of a mushy porridge-like consistency. To be honest, I have never tried risotto without doing this step, so I am not entirely sure the overall effect on the dish if I skipped it.

Next, add the wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. After the wine, we will add the broth bit by bit (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring between each addition. Do not make the next addition until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice from the previous addition.

Scrape the rice on the sides of the pot down regularly, to ensure all the rice kernels are being cooked rather than dried out. Once you are nearing the end of your broth (around 1 cup left), taste test the rice to check the consistency. I like a bit of bite to my risotto, so I do not add all the liquid. But if you prefer a creamier texture, continue to add more broth until just before your desired consistency. When you are nearing the end of the cooking, with just a bit more bite than you would like, add the zucchini, and stir.

The zucchini will cook and soften quite quickly. Add a bit more broth if needed and pull the risotto off the heat. Add the shredded parmesan and stir well until the parmesan is melted and consistently mixed into the risotto.

Turn the risotto out into a serving platter, and top with you pesto. I was lazy this time around and used a pesto I got from my local Italian grocer. But there are plenty of recipes out there for fairly simple pestos, with basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt, and pine nuts.

After topping the risotto with the pesto, sprinkle with the fresh, chopped basil, and serve.

Happy eating.

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