This delicious and easy no-stir risotto creation, with its lemony flavor really brings back a touch of summer sunshine. I like to top my risotto with a lemon balm and basil pesto, it’s simply delicious and adds a bright, fresh flavor to a traditional dish. Lemon balm, despite its name, doesn’t taste like lemons, but rather it has a very light flavorful taste, an intense lemony scent, and is surprising sweet!
The type of rice is important is this recipe as you’ll want to achieve a creamy texture. So go ahead and use the traditional Arborio rice. It’s a short, thick grained rice that is key to most risottos because it’s texture and cooking properties allow it to retain an ‘al dente’ texture (tender yet firm) and it’s also starchy, which makes for a creamy risotto.
Yes. it’s true, Arborio rice is key to a good authentic risotto – though, I have also managed to make a tasty mushroom risotto using short grain brown rice, you just have to find the right one as the brands can vary slightly. The flavor is also nice as brown rice tends to lend the risotto a slight nutty taste.
The procedure itself for making a cook risotto doesn’t have to be so complicated or labor intense – I learned from an Italian friend that it isn’t at all the necessary to follow the “risotto method” to create a delicious risotto! This version inspired by Umberto may be rich in calories, but it very simple to prepare.
Lemon Risotto with Lemon Balm Pesto
For the risotto:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 shallots, finely diced
- 2 cups Arborio risotto rice (400 g)
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth or homemade stock (750 ml)
- 3 cups dry white wine (750 ml)
- 1 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese or a mix of Sovrano Italian hard cheese (if using finely grated cheese, then use only 2/3 cup) (65 g)
- fresh squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach (about 100 g)
- chopped fresh chives, garnish (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the pesto topping (optional):
- 1 cup lemon balm leaves
- 1 cup basil leaves (parsley can also be used here)
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 to 1/2 half a cup of extra-virgin olive oil (60-125 ml)
- the juice from 1 lemon
- sea salt to taste
Blend all pesto ingredients together until smooth and set aside.
Melt the butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes.
Add wine and stock bring broth to boil, reduce heat to low and cover until tender, about 30 minutes (feel free to give it a stir after 10 or 15 minutes).
Stir in cheese, lemon juice and baby spinach leaves. The final consistency should be creamy and smooth. Add a little milk to thin if necessary.
Transfer to serving bowls and garnish the risotto with chives (or pesto, if using). Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
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