This Chicken Pesto Risotto is a gluten free Italian dinner recipe that is great for the whole family!
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I am OBSESSED with risotto and once I figured out a great base recipe, watch out! I have been on a risotto kick ever since, making as many fun flavors as possible. This risotto is made with basil pesto and Parmesan cheese, and then topped with chicken. Find more of our risotto recipes here!
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.
Leftover chicken is perfect for this Chicken Pesto Risotto, and you can use either store bought pesto or make your own, which takes just a few minutes! Get our popular basil pesto recipe here!
Chicken Pesto Risotto
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil to the skillet.
- When the pan and oil are hot, add the chicken and cook until browned, approximately 3-4 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, another 3-4 minutes, adding more oil if needed.
- Transfer the chicken to the oven to finish cooking the rest of the way through. (You can use the skillet if oven safe, otherwise transfer to a baking dish). When cooked through, remove and set aside.
- While the chicken is cooking, start the risotto. 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 (approximately 30-40 minutes), 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. Slice or chop the chicken and serve on top. Serve immediately.