Basil Pesto Risotto uses the bright and fresh flavors of basil pesto in a creamy and cheesy Parmesan risotto.
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I am OBSESSED with risotto. I am always trying to hunt down restaurants that serve risotto, especially in Italy, because it requires love and attention in order to serve it, so it will almost always be amazing. Part of the excitement of when I do find risotto is that it is not very common since it does require some love to make it, so it makes it all that more exciting. Basil Pesto Risotto is packed full of flavor!
Basil pesto is also one of my favorite things. So OF COURSE I needed to put them together in this Basil Pesto Risotto, and honestly I do not know why it took me so long to do it. I fell in love with pesto when I was living in Italy for college. The best Italian food is simple and fresh flavors, exactly like pesto. Pesto is so incredibly fast and easy to make that it makes a regular appearance during the week. Pesto is made with fresh, bright flavors and is perfect with pasta, vegetables, chicken, beef, and more! Get our recipe for Basil Pesto here!
Risotto was always somewhat intimidating to me because I would hear about how difficult it is to cook with all of the stirring and the gradual adding of liquid, and so I avoided it for a long time. But I have always loved it so I knew I needed to give it a go. Turns out making risotto is not so complicated! It just takes a little time and attention with the stirring.
Does the rice type really matter?
Yes! Arborio rice is high in starch and as this starch is released in the cooking process, it gives risotto the creamy texture. Arborio is also a short grain which means it stays a little firm and chewy. You want risotto to have just a little bite or texture to it and not be soggy or too soft. You can find arborio rice at most grocery stores. I like to get mine online in bulk here.
Do I really need to stir it that much?
In my opinion, yes. Some people say that they do not notice a difference and just let the rice sit there and cook in all of the liquid at once. But I DO notice a difference. The stirring and gradually adding of the liquid definitely makes the risotto creamier. Grab a glass of wine or a friend and hang out with your risotto for a bit, stirring as it cooks. Yes, you can go back and forth to the pot stirring every few minutes, but the best ever risotto I made was when I was constantly stirring.
Can I just use my canned Parmesan instead?
The quality of Parmesan in this dish is extremely important. The cheese is a primary flavor and so you want to use ingredients that taste good as it will just make the dish better. If you use that pre-ground, cheese in a can stuff, it will not taste as good. You get out of it what you put into it! I love to buy wedges of Parmesan Reggiano cheese and use one of my favorite tools, a food processor, to shred the brick and then I keep it in my refrigerator in plastic bags so that I always have fresh, quality cheese shredded on hand. If you make healthier and higher-quality foods easier to access, you will use them more often.
- Place the stock in a small pot and heat over medium low. You want the stock to be warm when adding it to the risotto so that the temperature change does not affect the rice.
- Make your pesto if it is not done already.
- In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the red onion. Cook until the onion is translucent but not yet browning, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir. Continue cooking to slightly toast the rice until it is just starting to show a little brown color, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Add the white wine to the pot. Cook until the rice is almost dry, where most of the wine has been absorbed.
- Add one cup of stock to the rice. Stir continuously until most of the stock has been absorbed. Repeat this process 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the rice is cooked thoroughly. You want the rice to have just a little bit of bite left so that it is not completely mushy. Depending on your rice, you may need more or less stock for the right consistency so start tasting the rice after 4 cups.
- When your rice is cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Add the rest of the butter, the Parmesan cheese, and pesto sauce. It is important to do this before adding salt and pepper because the cheese is salty. Stir to combine.
- Taste the risotto and season with additional pesto, salt, and pepper as desired. Garnish with toasted pine nuts if desired for an extra crunch. Serve immediately.