Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto
This recipe goes out to my father-in-law John, who undoubtedly has more home-made pesto from home-grown basil in his freezer than he knows what to do with. Simultaneously, this is a recipe for my mother-in-law Patty, who shares with me a deep fondness for risotto. Ah, risotto. It’s become one of my go-to meals, and all the more so in the chilly months that are upon us now. Plus, I recently made a sizable batch of chicken stock from surprisingly meaty bones from a local butcher, as well as one of the five (!) hot sauce-injected, deep-fried chicken carcases leftover from a late American Thanksgiving celebration. Yes, you read that right: hot sauce-injected (there were syringes involved), deep-fried chicken (a turkey wouldn’t fit in the fryer). Our host was from Georgia. He knows about hot sauce and deep frying. It was scrumptious.
So with a few quart-sized mason jars of stock in my fridge, I couldn’t help but make risotto. And because I too, have more home-made pesto from home-grown basil in my freezer than I know what to do with, the pairing was a natural. Now I know this dish doesn’t have that white creamy appeal that most risottos have, but that was more the result of an error in judgment on my part: I added the sun-dried tomatoes way, way too early. Plus, I reconstituted dried tomatoes myself, rather than using oil-packed tomatoes, which means their color was more brown than red. And I used some of the soaking water in the stock. This resulted in flavorful but brown risotto. Maybe not what you want to set before your holiday dinner guests. One does eat with his or her eyes first. Yes, I believe that. But. I think this has the potential to be a beautifully festive dish, all decked out in green and red. See my notes below on how I think one might accomplish this and let me know how it goes.
This one’s for you, John and Patty!
Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto
(Serves 3-4 as a main dish)
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
generous pinch of salt and several cranks of freshly ground pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, plus a few pieces for garnish (oil packed would look prettiest, but if you reconstitute your own, make sure to soak them in water for several hours before making the risotto)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano, plus more to garnish
2-3 generous tablespoons pesto, plus more to garnish
Combine the stock and wine in a large pot, cover, and bring to a simmer. Keep hot. In a separate pot or large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic with the salt and pepper until tender and translucent. Add the rice and cook for a few more minutes. Add the stock/wine to the rice one ladleful at a time, as it is absorbed. Stir the rice very often, if not continually. Your risotto is ready when the rice is tender and creamy but still has a bit of a bite; 7 cups of liquid seemed just right to me. Turn off the heat and add the tomatoes, pesto and cheese. Taste and add salt if necessary. Top with a spoonful of pesto and a handful of freshly grated Parmesan…and perhaps a few slices of sun-dried tomato. Toasted pine nuts would be a nice addition…just a pricey one. If you follow this order of cooking, I imagine your finished risotto should be a lovely pesto green studded with tomato red…instead of, well…brown.