This, to me, is a perfect January recipe. There are two things I want in January, and they often feel like they’re at odds: to give my body a break from the bread and potato and cookie and alcohol pummeling of December, and to eat food that feels warm and comforting, like a down jacket for my insides. This mixed herb and walnut pesto risotto most certainly fits the bill.
This risotto knocks it out of the park on both fronts. The pesto is made from a mix of herbs (I’m not super strict on quantities here, but I love to really mix it up, with thyme, basil, cilantro, parsley) and let me tell you – if you’ve just been making classic basil pestos, you’ve been missing out. While basil adds a lovely sweetness, the other herbs kick it to another level, for that gourmet, amazing melange of flavors (and no additional work). The various herbs also offer different types of detoxification. While they’re all rich in chlorophyll (which aids in cell regeneration), cilantro chelates remove heavy metals from your blood, while thyme helps with treating and preventing respiratory problems, making it a great inclusion if you’re trying to avoid (or get over) the crazy month long cough that almost everyone I know seems to have.
Now I’m going to say something that may be sacrilegious, so classicists, avert your eyes: I’m not a huge fan of the pine nut pesto base. First, pine nuts are insanely expensive, and grinding them into a garlic and herb pulp makes me physically wince. They offer little in the way of texture and their flavor, in my opinion, is too delicate to stand up to the other strong ones in the pesto. I much prefer using walnuts in my pestos. They offer a rich, nutty flavor that perfectly compliments the herbs and garlic, and have such a substantial, hearty and creamy texture that you can get away with not using any cheeses (which is both great for vegans and lets the herby flavor shine through).
Now, I know what you’re thinking: that sounds great and all, but risotto means standing over a stove and stirring until my brow is soaked with sweat and my biceps are burning and I’m cursing whoever wrote this godforsaken recipe. Ah, well, I reply to this imagined conversation: this risotto is baked. Yes, that’s right – baked, meaning a very small amount of stirring and a large amount of time sitting and watching funny YouTube videos and texting your friends about the amazing dinner they’re about to eat. Like many things in life, it works through a combination of science and magic, and the resulting risotto is perfectly creamy and not gummy at all – and you’re safe and content in your lazy evening. It also reheats beautifully – I’ll often make a big batch on Sunday and eat it throughout the week.Print
- 2 tbsp high heat oil (such as coconut, ghee, or avocado)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1.5 cups arborio rice
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
- 1.5 cups packed mixed herbs (I used an even mix of parsley, cilantro, basil with 5 – 6 sprigs of thyme)
- 3/4 cup walnuts (optionally lightly toasted in a pan over medium for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to bring out flavor)
- ¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
- 3 cloves raw garlic, peeled
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- Juice of half a lemon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-large pot, bring vegetable stock and white wine to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a large, oven safe pot with a lid (the lid also needs to be oven safe, although you can also cover tightly with foil in a pinch), melt high heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring occasionally. By now, your stock/wine mixture should be simmering – add the simmering liquid to the rice, give it a quick stir and put the lid on, and place the whole pot in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed (if it hasn’t when you check at 30 minutes, do 5 min increments). No need to stir while baking. While risotto is baking, make the pesto sauce.
- Pulse together all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
- When you remove risotto from oven, stir vigorously, then stir in pesto sauce and any additional mix-ins. Salt and pepper to taste, then garnish with some chiffonade basil and some crushed walnuts and serve. Serves 4.