Enjoy risotto in spring. Make this creamy, comforting, and fresh risotto topped with mint pesto and spring vegetables, and a little prosciutto, too. This spring pesto risotto recipe is a great Italian dish for a special occasion like a Mother's Day brunch or just a perfect weeknight meal. I'll show you how to make risotto ahead of time, so you can prepare dinner even faster.Jump to Recipe
What is Risotto?
Risotto is a dish from northern Italy made with short- or medium-grain rice, like Arborio. Rice for making risotto contains a higher content of starch called amylopectin. It's the slow release of amylopectin that creates risotto's creamy texture. Risotto rice has the ability to stay firm in its center while releasing its starch. You can make a basic risotto recipe and add any ingredients you, like the mint pesto in this recipe. The possibilities are endless.
3 Types of Rice for Making Risotto
Carnaroli: The caviar of risotto rice, Carnaroli rice has the highest level of amylopectin, yielding the creamiest risotto.
Vialone Nano: It is rumored that Vialone Nano rice yields similar results as its cousin, Carnaroli. It is produced in Veneto, Italy, and absorbs the most liquid while still maintaining an al dente texture.
Arborio: Named after the commune of Arborio in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, Arborio is the most common and widely available type of rice for making risotto.
To make risotto ahead of time, follow the recipe below and stop just before adding the cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. Spread the cooked rice on a sheet tray and let it cool in the refrigerator. This will allow the cooked rice to cool quickly and stop the cooking process.
Once cooled completely transfer the cooked rice into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.
To reheat the risotto, allow the cooked rice to come to room temperature, heat a portion in a pan along with some chicken stock, and stir. Once the chicken stock is mostly absorbed, add a splash of cream and some butter and stir. At the very end, stir in some grated parmesan cheese. Add your other ingredients, like my spring vegetables with mint pesto, to your risotto and serve.
How to Reheat One Serving of Make-ahead Risotto
To reheat one serving of risotto, heat 1 ½ cups of cooked risotto rice to a non-stick pan along with a ¼-½ cup of chicken stock and stir. Once most of the stock is absorbed, add a tablespoon of heavy cream and a tablespoon of butter. Stir until the cream is mostly absorbed and the butter is melted. You want the risotto to be creamy but not soupy. At this point, stir in 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan. Basic risotto tastes amazing, or add your favorite ingredients to make it even more delicious.
Tips for Making Great Risotto
- Use the correct rice. When choosing rice to make risotto, look for short- or medium-grained rice with a high level of amylopectin like Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Arborio rice.
- Toast the rice. Toasting the rice seals each kernel allowing it to stay firm in its center while still yielding a creamy texture. Once you sauté your onions and before adding chicken stock, toast your rice.
- Use hot stock. Always use hot stock when making risotto. Heat your stock until it's piping hot and then keep it on low heat. Hot stock will allow the rice to release its starch. Using cold stock impedes this process.
- Don't add all the stock all at once. We don't want to boil our rice. To achieve that creamy texture, we want the starch from our rice to release slowly.
- Don't over-stir. While we want to stir our rice often to release some of the starch and prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, stirring constantly will yield a very sticky, gluey risotto.
- Don't overcook. Risotto should be eaten al dente, not completely soft and mushy, so make sure not to overcook your rice.
Every recipe starts with a great foundation and this spring pesto risotto recipe with seasonal vegetables is no different. First, master the techniques for making a great basic risotto. Then, add good quality, seasonal ingredients to your basic recipe. To make a great fall recipe, make risotto with sausage, peppers, and onions, or a nice mushroom risotto, but since it's spring, we've created a comforting and fresh risotto with seasonal herbs and vegetables like mint, asparagus, peas, and leeks.
Happy Spring Everyone!
Spring Pesto Risotto Recipe with Seasonal Vegetables
For the Risotto
- Extra-virgin olive oil enought to coat the bottom of the pan
- 1 cup diced onions
- 4 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine
- 6-8 cups hot chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 TBSP butter
- ½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
For the Mint Pesto
- 1 cup mint leaves packed
- ½ cup parsley leaves packed
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- pinch of salt and pepper
For the Spring Vegetables
- 2 TBSP thinly sliced leeks
- 1 stock asparagus ends removed, blanched, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 recipe mint pesto
- 3 slices prosciutto optional
To Make the Risotto
- In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart pot, and on medium heat, pour enough olive oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add the chopped onions and sauté until onions soften, stirring occasionally (about 3-5 minutes).
- Stir in the rice and let it toast for about two minutes.
- Add 1 cup of white wine and stir.
- Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the rice. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally. The rice will begin to absorb the liquid. (about 5 -7 minutes). Once all the stock is absorbed, pour enough stock to just cover the rice again and cook until absorbed, stirring occasionally. (This is my quick method for making risotto. The traditional way is to add ½ cup of stock at a time, stirring until completely absorbed, and then repeating the process until done.)
- Taste the rice. Is it too al dente? Does it need more salt or pepper? At this point, if you would like to cook it more, I would just add the stock a ½ cup at a time. Continue this process until the rice is cooked to your liking ( you may have stock leftover).
- Pour in the heavy cream and stir until the risotto tightens up a little. Add the butter stirring until completely melted and incorporated into the rice. Stir in grated cheese. Taste and reseason with salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve a generous dollop of risotto into individual bowls adding a spoonful of spring vegetables with mint pesto and its liquid on top.
To Make Mint Pesto
- In a food processor, add mint leaves, parsley leaves, pine nuts, and garlic cloves and pulse until fully blended.
- Continue to pulse as you slowly pour in the extra-virgin olive oil.
- Add the juice of ½ a lemon and pulse.
- Season with salt and pepper. Pulse again and set aside.
To Prepare the Vegetables for Spring Pesto Risotto
- Slice your leeks thinly, put them in a bowl of water, and set them aside. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the clean leeks and place them in a colander to drain and dry completely.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water and let it come to a boil. Blanch the asparagus but placing them in a boiling water for a minute or two. Transfer the asparagus to an ice bath to cool. This stops the cooking process and allows the asparagus to remain a vibrant green color. Drain the asparagus and let it dry. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
- Over medium-high heat, melt 2 TBSP of butter in a medium-sized pan. Sauté the sliced leeks in the butter for a minute or two. Add the asparagus and peas and sauté for a minute or two more. Add one recipe mint pesto and ½ cup chicken stock and stir. Season with salt and pepper.