Having gone green for St. Patrick’s Day, I had to do something colorful to commemorate today, St. Joseph’s Feast Day. So, using pesto and tomato for color, we’re going to make tricolor risotto, a dish that features the green, white, and red of the Italian flag.
At its heart, this is a trio of simple risotto dishes. None of the usual ingredients — mushrooms, saffron, squash, etc. — are used because they would detract from the three colors. (Presentation, presentation, presentation!) You start cooking the rice in one pot and, when the time is right, the contents are split into thirds. Two of the thirds are then colored with either pesto or tomato paste and each pot finishes cooking on its own. It really is that simple and the resultant dish is a conversation starter, to be sure. More importantly, however, behind each of the 3 colors is a delicious dish of risotto.
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Tricolor Risotto Recipe
total time: approx. 45 minutes
- 8 cups chicken stock (for a meat-free diet, vegetable stock may be substituted)
- 6 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine (optional)
- 3 – 4 tbsp pesto
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper, to taste
- additional paremesan cheese for serving
- Heat stock in a sauce pan. Adjust heat to keep it hot but not boiling.
- Add 3 tbsp of butter to a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more.
- Add rice and stir until well-coated. Toast the rice for about 2 minutes before adding the wine. Stir frequently until the wine is absorbed.
- Add enough hot stock to cover the rice, about two ladles. Keep stirring the mixture and, when the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle or 2 of stock. Continue stirring, adding more stock when “dry,” for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, place a third of the rice mixture into each of 2 additional sauce pans over medium heat. Add the pesto to 1 pan and the tomato paste to the other.
- You now have 3 saucepans of rice to maintain by adding stock, stirring until “dry,” and then adding more stock.
- Continue cooking all 3 batches until the rice is al dente, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of butter and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese to each of the 3 pans. Mix well. Taste test for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
- Serve on a platter with the white risotto in its center, flanked by the red and green versions.
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The variations for this dish involve substituting freshly chopped parsley and basil — or even cooked chopped spinach — for the pesto. I always opt for pesto because I’m sure to have some in my fridge or freezer. As for the red side of the flag, a little marinara sauce can be used in place of the tomato paste.
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