9 April 2012

Risotto with Buffalo Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes and Basil Oil

Risotto with Buffalo Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes and Basil Oil

What I miss most about living in my house when I moved to the city and became a condo dweller are my gardens. Yesterday I received an e-mail to say that after 3 years of waiting and hoping my name came up on the list for a plot in our local community garden less than a block away. Planting tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini are at least a month away, so, until I can grow my own kaleidescope of heirloom tomatoes roasting is the way to go. 

In this in-between season tomatoes are more like ping pong balls than the visions we imagine and just as flavourless. While you're puttering around your house this weekend, tuck a pan of store-bought tomatoes in the oven, come back several hours later, and have a peak. They will add a whole new dimension of flavour to your dishes! Not only does slow-roasting concentrate and caramelize the intense flavour of cherry tomatoes, but it also gives them a meatier, more robust texture. The roasted tomatoes become versatile ingredients, perfect for tossing into pasta or salads, layering on sandwiches, or just using as a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats. Of course they are perfect served with grilled bread with some grilled brie oozing over each and every nook and cranny. This is a different type of a grilled cheese sandwich! I can't guarantee you will not have any left over so roast a double batch. They keep in the refrigerator for a week (or longer, if you can manage not to eat them all first), and you can freeze them, too. You can certainly use this method this time of year.  We need to wait just a little longer for sun-ripened tomatoes. Be patient and roast your babies instead. They will remind you of sun-kissed summer days to come, and they will have intense flavour perfect for this risotto.

Roz of La bella Vita recreated a Cooking Light risotto dish for our Italian feast for our Virtual Supper Club. It was something I just had to try. Although I love Cooking Light I had to find my own twist and came across this recipe from Rouxbe Cooking School on line using roasted tomatoes and basil oil. The roasted tomatoes practically cook themselves and the basil oil keeps for weeks in the refrigerator, so, with a little forethought this dish comes together quite quickly. 

Risotto is much easier to prepare than you might think, and is extraordinarily versatile. Making a good risotto is like riding a bicycle. You need to learn how to do it in the beginning and it requires a certain amount of concentration thereafter. Risotto is very sensitive to timing but with a little know how you can make this easy peasy dish perfectly over and over again. It is something that needs to be served immediately and you need to watch and stir it. It is a "labour of love" and the time that is invested in making risotto is well worth it in the end. This is one of Italy's true comfort foods and since I am adopting Italy this week (or it has adopted me) this was a perfect muse.

The ingredients chosen are very important to the outcome of your dish. Use the best that are available to you.  Buying the rice to make a risotto is also very important. Choose short-grained round or semi-round rice; among the best rices for making risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. Other short-grained rices such as Originario will also work. Long grained rice such as Patna will not, because the grains will stay separate. Nor should you use Minute Rice...wink...wink...

On a lazy day what better way to spend some quality time in the kitchen.  

**Risotto with Buffalo Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes and Basil Oil**
based on a recipe from Rouxbe Cooking School 

5 cups water or stock
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn in pieces
1 cup risotto rice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth

1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
Basil oil (recipe below)
Roasted tomatoes (recipe below)

Note: For the liquid, use a light chicken or vegetable stock. If your stock is very strong in flavour, you can use a combination of 1/2 water and 1/2 stock so you don't over power the flavour of the rice. Always keep in mind that more or less liquid may be needed to cook this 
dish. It's always better to have too much than not enough.

Place the liquid into a pot, season with the salt (if needed) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and keep hot.

Place the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat over medium to medium-low heat.

Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until soft and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Next, add 1/4 cup of the hot cooking liquid to soften the onions further. Let the cooking liquid completely evaporate before moving onto the next step.

Once the liquid has completely evaporated, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the rice all at once. Stir to coat the rice in the hot fat. Monitor the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Toast the rice for a few minutes until the perimeter of the grains are translucent.

Once toasted, add the garlic and cook, stirring just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with the wine. Stir the rice until the wine evaporates.

Once the wine has evaporated, slowly add the hot liquid cup by cup. Stir often to coax the starches out of the rice. Adjust the heat so the liquid is always gently boiling. Once the liquid has been absorbed, then and only then, add the next cup. Stir frequently.

Continue to add liquid and cook the risotto until it reaches the al dente stage (or until it is done to your liking). Start tasting the rice for doneness around the 15 minute mark.

Once the risotto has been cooked to your liking, taste it for seasoning. Add a touch of hot liquid to loosen the consistency, if necessary. Add roasted tomatoes to heat through. Stir in the butter (or olive oil). Place the chunks of buffalo mozzarella over top. Cover and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Plate the risotto on warmed dishes. Top with the roasted tomatoes and drizzle with the fresh basil oil. Serve immediately.

**Basil Oil**

1 large bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

First wash the basil and tear the leaves from the stem.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and blanch the basil for about 10 seconds to set the color. Remove and immediately place into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Once cool, remove the basil and squeeze to remove the excess moisture. Press it between paper towels to ensure it is as dry as possible.

To prepare the oil, place the blanched basil into a blender. Add the grapeseed oil and process until smooth. Add the olive oil and blend again until smooth.

Place into a container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will allow the flavors to really blend together.

Bring the basil oil to room temperature. Strain the oil through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Once done, squeeze the cheesecloth to make sure most of the oil has been extracted.

Transfer the oil to a small squeeze bottle. Refrigerate for about 1 month.

**Roasted Tomatoes**

8 ounces small tomatoes
sea salt (to taste)
extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius).

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Line a tray with parchment and arrange the tomatoes cut-side up in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with a bit of sea salt. Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil.

Transfer to the oven and slow roast for approximately 2 hours or until the tomatoes have just started to brown, shrivel and concentrate.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. A beautiful risotto! Those flavors are gorgeous.



  2. That's excellent about getting a stop in the community garden. There's someone in my neighbourhood that is trying to convince the city to use nearby land for a community garden. But, its quite a process to get the land tested and approved.

  3. Spectacular photo love the colors in that dish just beautifully done!

  4. Great flavors. The risotto looks great

  5. perfection in a bowl... photo is stunning!

  6. I have had excellent results when I've roasted the plum tomatoes from Costco. The slow cooking brings out their natural sweetness and they are just plain delicious. Your risotto is a great way to use them.

  7. It looks and sounds absolutely amazing!

  8. Hello all the way from Istanbul! It all sounds just delish! I love the way you explain everything, you make it sound totally feasible! Thank you.

  9. Congratulations on your garden plot! I would be lost without my herbs, lettuces, chards, and garden tomatoes in the summer. I've bookmarked this incredible looking recipe to make when my tomatoes come in. Looks like the perfect dish to enjoy on the porch on a lazy summer evening with a nice crispy wine.

  10. magnificent way to amp up some plain ol' risotto, val!

  11. I don't think caprese flavors have ever looked more delicious to me!

  12. Exciting that you can do some gardening again, Val. I miss my Michigan garden!
    Fabulous risotto dish!

  13. Val, I live in suburbs in the midst of the country (tennessee) and we have a garden. For first time this year, we have raised boxes and organic soil delivered yesterday. Now what to plant? Yes for tomatoes and zucchini (lots of herbs) and swiss chard. But, I always complain that I want a condo in the city and no more grass. You know they say, the grass is always greener. Buffalo mozzarella in risotto has to be to die for.

  14. Did you say risotto? Rice? Mmmmm, that's my kind of dish!
    You are so right about tomatoes, the ones you find here are not so good now either.
    Congrats on your little garden!

  15. Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to play with. Love your variation.

    Cant' agree more about the roasted tomatoes. They are such a staple at home while I wait forever for fresh tomatoes to come to the farm market. Being another unfortunatley condo dweller, my attempts to grow my own on my tiny little balcony have not been terribly successful.

  16. This is a beauty for the almost-spring tomatoes. I roast cherry tomatoes all winter. I agree that risotto is easier than one thinks. I also am able to answer e-mails in-between stirs! Congrats on the garden! You will have fun again!

  17. Congratulations on the community garden, I know I love my little section in our backyard-especially when the tomatoes ripen-combine tomoato-basil-mozzarella and I'll eat it over anything, but this sounds especially yummy

  18. I've never had a garden of my own, but I miss my family's garden - or at least the produce from it.

  19. that buffalo mozzarella? one of my favorite finds last summer. oh the flavor, the texture...heavenly.
    very nice combo here

  20. Alas, those oven-roasted tomatoes only last a day or two around here!! Roasting is the only way to go in our winters. I recently tried a new (to me) roasting method that allows us to have a somewhat fresh salad. I'll be sharing it soon. Can't wait to see what your little plot of land will produce for you this summer.


  21. This sounds and looks incredibly delicious! What a fabulous cast of characters! How fun that you have a garden plot - there's nothing like cooking with ingredients that you planted and watched grow!

  22. Val, that's a great risotto and I have to try it! That's wonderful about the community garden also. You will have some delicious tomatoes and all, I bet! My dad started and ran the first community garden in Louisville when he retired, and I remember how thrilled everyone was to have it.

  23. Congratulations! Love your tip about our tasteless tomatoes; great risotto recipe; one of my favourite things.

  24. Congrats on nabbing a spot in the community garden. I know what it feels like - winning the lottery! This risotto sounds delicious. I love the addition of basil oil.

  25. Love the sound of your risotto. I'm with you about roasting tomatoes this time of the year. I can't wait until I can pick my first tomatoes in August.

  26. I've never made this type of risotto but now I'm sure I need to. It looks wonderful and full of flavor. I like this with the basil oil. Great instructions and beautiful photos.

  27. You are too kind, Val. I still have not posted my recipe! Your version sounds and looks like food from heaven, which is what I think risotto really is!!!!! Hard to believe that this is a 'light' recipe!


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