Risi e Bisi
I adore risotto but it’s made with a lot of butter so I rarely order it in a restaurant (remember dining inside a restaurant? Sigh.) And I’ve always been too intimidated to try it at home; what if it was a fail after all that stirring?
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s recipe for a risotto-like dish made with zucchini and fresh peas inspired me to give a recipe requiring 20 minutes of stirring a try. It looked pretty easy (other than the stirring) and had not one but two vegetables—and they’re easy: fresh peas require zero prep, and baby zucchini is easy to slice. Plus, it uses just 3 TB of butter for the entire dish, which I decided was heart-healthy enough: not awesome, but better than many other things I could eat.
Tired of drab lunches, I gave it a go. My hope was for a dinner side to serve with grilled chicken and then enough leftovers for ‘hot lunch’ for a few days.
It was the best thing I’ve made in months. And yes, the stirring is a pain but that it delivered 4 days of lunches made my week (the recipes says it serves 4, but as you can see from this photo on my stove, it makes a lot.)
I wish the New York Times published nutrition facts. As they don’t, I used My Fitness Pal to estimate. This does have 8 grams of saturated fat per serving—if you view this dish as serving 4. I view it as 6 so the saturated fat is even lower per serving.
As it does require standing and stirring for 20 minutes, the best way to try this recipe is when you’re making something easy for a protein. Or serve this on its own as a vegetarian dish: vegetable stock could take the place of chicken stock (I didn’t even consider making a “Parmigiano-Reggiano rind broth”, whatever that is.)
In case you can’t access the recipes online, here it is, along with Nutrition Facts I calculated using My Fitness Pal:
- 5 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano rind broth or chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 scallions roots trimmed, then sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 12 ounces baby zucchini cut into coins
- 1 cup carnaroli or arborio rice
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- 10 ounces fresh shelled peas
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat broth in a small pot on the back burner over medium-low.
Set a wide, shallow, long-handled pan over medium-low. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil until butter foams. Set the remaining 1 tablespoon butter back in the fridge to keep cold.
Add scallions, season with a pinch of salt and stir until sweated and soft, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add zucchini coins, season with a pinch of salt, and stir until they start to sweat, begin to soften and become a little translucent, about 2 minutes.
Push vegetables out to the edge of the pan in a ring, leaving an empty space in the center. Adjust heat — a tad hotter — then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, then rice. Stir rice until coated and glistening, and keep stirring until it begins sizzling slightly.
Microplane the garlic (I use garlic press) over the sizzling rice, then draw the vegetables into the rice as well, stirring well to combine, leaving a little space — a moatlike ring — along the edges where the vegetables were.
Add the peas to the empty outer space you just created. Run your spoon through them, keeping them in their outer ring, coating them in the oil and moisture. Season the whole business with another pinch of salt.
Ladle a generous cup of hot broth over the rice mixture in the center, seasoning with salt at each addition of broth, and stirring as the liquid is absorbed. Add another generous cupful of broth, stirring the rice while it absorbs. Repeat once more with a third cup of hot broth, stirring until the rice starts to show signs of its signature starchy and creamy nature. Keep the peas at the outer edge as much as possible. (This might remind you of making homemade pasta, when you are whisking the eggs in the well of the flour and very slowly drawing in the flour.) This entire step should take about 20 minutes. Adjust the heat slightly along the way for a very gentle, hot steaming — not hard simmering — stirring all the while.
Add the remaining broth all at once. The peas and vegetables will slightly float on the surface, while the rice will naturally remain submerged. Stir gently or shake and swirl the pan in the classic cresting, swelling wave style, all’onde, bringing everything together — rice, zucchini, peas, broth — about 7 more minutes, maybe 10 at most.
Turn off heat. Season assertively with black pepper. Stir or swirl in the remaining chilled butter, and finish with the grated cheese. Serve hot.
Recipe by Gabrielle Hamilton, in New York Times.
Hope you enjoy!