21 March 2010

Fresh Herb and Pea Risotto for the First Day of Spring

Fresh Herb and Pea Risotto

Rice was introduced to Italy by the Arabs who dominated Sicily and parts of the Southern mainland in the late Middle Ages, but, proved best suited to the vast marshy regions of the Po Valley. Here it was enthusiastically adopted by the residents of the Veneto region, Lombardia and Piemonte. Thanks to the Arabs we now have one of the best comfort foods on the planet!!!

Italians have been growing rice for a very long time, and have developed many ways to prepare it. The best known to us is risotto.  Historically, risotto is the name given to all recipes that use rice as the main component and are served as a first dish in a traditional Italian lunch or dinner. In the Italian culture pasta is also served in this way and risotto is a delicious and delicate alternative to pasta. In short, risotto is perfect for any occasion as a meal or a side dish!!!

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.

There are many risotto recipes that suit a myriad of taste buds and we love this great Italian dish in all its disguises. 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...

In honour of the first day of Spring I made this one-pot dish. It is simple yet sophisticated and can be served as a side dish or as the main attraction. The colour alone just screams Spring!!!! If you make this risotto outside of pea season, you can use frozen peas (just add them in the last 5 minutes of cooking). And if you have any fresh mint on hand, shred it and sprinkle it over the risotto. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of young white wine, sit back and enjoy all that life has to offer.

**Fresh Herb and Pea Risotto**

3 cups (750 mL0 fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup (125 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2  (25 mL)tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) onion, finely diced
1-1/3 cups (325 mL) short grain rice such as arborio, Vialone Nano or carnaroli
1/2 cup ( 125 mL) white wine
3/4 cup (175 mL) frozen peas
1-1/4 teaspoon (6 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

In saucepan, bring about 3-1/3 cups (875 mL) water to a boil; reduce heat to low and keep warm.
In food processor or with immersion blender, puree together spinach, basil, oil and 1/2 of the garlic to form a smooth paste. Set aside.

In large deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the butter over medium high heat; saute onion and remaining garlic until softened and transluscent; about 3 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat and toast grains, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine until completely absorbed.

Add water, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time and stirring after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total. Add spinach mixture, peas, salt and pepper. Taste before adding last 1/2 cup (125 mL) water; rice should be loose, creamy but not mushy, and still slightly firm in centre of grain (al dente).

Remove from heat. Stir in Romano cheese and remaining butter. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

You may also enjoy....

Risotto alla Puttanesca
Crispy Salmon with Risotto and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Aglaia Kremezi's Orzo Risotto with Zucchini, Dill and Feta
Butternut Squash Risotto
Chuck Hughes Potato "Risotto" with Pan Seared Lamb Sausages
Spring Has Sprung Risotto
Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash'
Greek-Style Vegetable Risotto

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/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. What a great, spring dish! I love risotto in all its forms.

  2. Mmmm, I have some organic peas in my fridge! I could make that! BTW, happy Spring!

  3. Looks like spring! Sounds delicious and so full of flavor!

  4. Perfect and so fresh!



  5. I do love it when Spring arrives. In fact, today - a sunny day in Nova Scotia was spent driving along the coast. Trees are still bare but the birds are chirping.

    And because visiting your blog always makes me smile, I'm passing on the Happy 101 Award http://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com/2010/03/happy-101-award.html

  6. That does look like a bite of spring! lovely!!

  7. I make risotto at least a couple of times a week and peas just say Spring. YUM!
    xoxo pattie

  8. i think this will form part of our meal tomorrow - the spinach is almost out of control in the garden!

  9. Mmm, so nice and healthy and green. I love all the fresh spinach and basil.

  10. what a wonderful way to welcome spring!

  11. I'd like this minus the peas. I don't know what it is but I just don't like eating sweet peas. Call me weird. No don't! :)

  12. What a gorgeous taste of spring! I love risotto with mint and peas. Especially with lemony chicken. So lovely.

  13. green risotto is oh so springy! Love it.

  14. I have been craving risotto non-stop lately and I can't quite figure out why. I'm going to blame it on spring. I'm loving all of the green in this dish! Now let's just hope that this nice weather is here to stay.

  15. I love pea risotto. I love pea anything. I made a pea dip that I haven't posted yet. Had it at Farm Restaurant in Calgary. Bought the ingredients and recreated it at home. Easy, delish, and nutritious.
    Thanks for sharing.
    PS It would be really helpful if you had a subscription to sign up to so I could get your new posts through my e-mail.

  16. What a glorious green colour Val! Your risotto really screams spring! I have always loved the pea and mint combo...even better in risotto!

  17. Great risotto! hmmm herbs and peas in a creamy risotto, what's not to like about it?

  18. Hey Val, delicious! It was definitely the 1st day of spring here yesterday, 20 miles on the mountain bike around our coast, sun shining and people happy, it was amazing! Hope life is good.

    David x

  19. ah, all these green ingredients popping up are so welcome. although it's not the case with your lovely dish, isn't it funny that something can be doused with butter or cream or what-have-you, but as long as it's green, we can make ourselves believe it's healthy? great dish, val. :)

  20. A delicious and beautiful dish to start the Spring with!!! Buen provecho chica :D

  21. The brilliant green of this risotto is oh so Spring-like...and it is Spring indeed!

  22. What a beautiful risotto Val!

  23. What a wonderful way to prepare risotto and to welcome spring! I just love this! Ciao, Roz

  24. Mmm... mmm... mmm. I just love this kind of risotto (or pasta equivalent, for that matter). The herbs absolutely make it, don't they?

  25. I am soooo ready for spring and your risotto is perfect.

  26. What a fresh and delicious risotto! The herbs and peas make it so much lighter feeling than your usual risotto. I'd love this with a little fresh lemon juice at the end too. Mmm.

  27. Gorgeous risotto, a perfect dish to celebrate the arrival of spring!

  28. You are ready for Spring, I can tell by all the bright images and recipes. Enjoy, we are seeing the first signs of winter.

  29. Love this dish! I adore making risotto - it is the perfect meal, and I often make Risi e Bisi - as risotto with peas is known in Italy - every spring. Your addition of spinach and basil adds great flavor and makes it even healthier. Wonderful recipe!


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