Arborio rice with lemon zest and juice, white wine, parmesan and mint, this lemon risotto is a very easy Italian rice dish and makes a vibrant side dish or vegetarian meal.
My family and I love all types of foods. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and my husband and kids are used to seeing new things on the dinner table. Of course, they don’t always eat what I serve them, even if they are delicious. Despite these setbacks and disappointments, I keep moving forward (Remember, “Meet the Robinson’s?”).
As Persians, we eat fluffy basmati rice religiously. So I was a little apprehensive to introduce Italian risotto to the family. What would they think?
What is risotto?
Risotto is an Italian dish made with arborio rice, a very short grain rice. It is typically made slowly in a pan with the addition of parmesan cheese, onions and white wine. You can add any variety of vegetables and flavors to make your own unique risotto.
If you are not familiar with the varieties of rice, let’s have a brief lesson. The shorter the rice grain, the more starch it has. The more starch it has, the more “sticky” it becomes when cooked. Now sticky rice has its place. For example, sushi rice is sticky which makes it hold its shape when rolled.
And with risotto, the stickiness adds to the creaminess with the addition of cheese. We Persians prefer long grain rice, like basmati rice. Long grain rice also takes longer to cook than the shorter grains.
How to cook lemon risotto
Risotto starts with the base of sautéd onions and garlic. The arborio rice is then added and toasted up in the sauce pan, instead of being boiled. The toasting of the rice hardens the outside of each rice grain, allowing the rice to slowly absorb moisture without getting soggy or bursting.
White wine i9s then added and cooked with the rice until the wine has evaporated. Then you slowly add chicken stock, one cup at a time, and slowly stir and let the rice absorb the liquid. This is not for the faint of heart.
Risotto must be nurtured and cooked slowly to create the perfect creamy texture. You don’t want a soggy bowl of slop and call it risotto. Risotto still has the texture of rice, without it being mushy. Creamy without being soggy. By cooking it slowly and adding the stock slowly, you will create the perfect risotto.
Once the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked, you can stir in the butter, cheese, chopped lemons and mint. I do not like too much cheese in my risotto. I want something creamy and smooth and not a gluey mess. So I only use 1/4-1/3 cup of cheese. You can add up to 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese if you prefer more.
More risotto recipes
If you have never made risotto, this lemon risotto is a great introduction to this creamy Italian rice. You’ll love the touch of lemon and hint of mint in this recipe. Feeling adventurous and want to try some more risotto recipes? Here are a few from to get you to salivate:
- 1 qt chicken broth
- 2 cup water
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- Grated zest from one lemon, reserve rest of lemon
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
- 2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 TBS finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Heat broth and water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat add olive oil.
- When oil is hot, but not smoking, add chopped onions.
- Cook until softened, about 5 minutes, then stir in garlic.
- Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in rice and lemon zest.
- Sauté the rice for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in wine.
- Cook until wine has evaporated.
- Add in the warmed stock, a few ladles at a time.
- Stir for a minute with each addition, to develop the starch and the creamy texture of the risotto.
- Total cooking time will be about 15-18 minutes. Keep adding stock each time the pan starts to become dry at the edges.
- While the rice cooks peel and remove the membranes from reserved lemon used for zest.
- Finely chop reserved lemon segments.
- Sprinkle lemon pieces with sugar.
- When rice is cooked to al dente, stir in chopped lemon pieces, butter, mint and cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
If you prefer a tart lemony risotto, feel free to omit the sugar. You can also use fresh tarragon, oregano or basil instead of mint.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 16mg Sodium: 417mg Carbohydrates: 14g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 2g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 3g