Risotto is a dish unbound by season. As with minestrone (see me recipes for autumn and spring), the best seasonal produce can be used to great effect in this famous Italian rice dish. There is no ingredient on earth that can’t be put to bewilderingly good use in risotto, a fact that makes it very special and probably unique. Indeed, to celebrate the beginning of the British tomato season, this recipe for Tomato and Basil Risotto makes full use of the fruit’s flavour, texture and colour. Delicious is an understatement.
It can be tricky to know when to add tomatoes to a dish. For instance, if you add them at the beginning they tend to break down and form a sweet sauce, whereas if you add them near the end they retain most of their juicy plumpness and bite. When preparing a dish based on fresh tomatoes I always have a good ponder about what the end result should be – planning ahead like this is a must. In the case of this Tomato and Basil Risotto I thought it best to go somewhere in between sauce and fresh. Doing so means the tomato colours the risotto and conveys some of its sweetness, which works very well with the basil, while also providing little pockets of juicy deliciousness in every mouthful.
Tomato and basil is a timeless combination – the sweetness and fragrance of each of them simply works so well in tandem. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of summer weather than this risotto. Having said that, do you have any combinations you feel would top this? Impress me!
Tomato and Basil Risotto
• 350g arborio rice, or similar
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
• Olive oil
• 1.2 litres chicken stock
• 200ml white wine, preferably dry
• 400g fresh cherry or small plum tomatoes, halved
• A handful of basil, roughly torn
• 50g salted butter
• A handful of parmesan cheese
1. Begin by sautéing the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Once translucent add the rice and cook for a minute or so, stirring frequently. Add the wine and cook out, begin adding the stock one ladle at a time stirring all the while.
2. Once two thirds of the stock has been used add the tomatoes, keep stirring and adding the stock until the rice is al dente. Throw in the basil, butter and cheese and set aside (off the heat) with the lid on for 3 minutes. Season and serve with a little extra basil.
Cost: The great thing about tomatoes starting to come into season is that they can be bought for an extremely reasonable price. We got around 800g of cherry tomatoes for £1.50, a price not to be sniffed at. As such, this dish should set you back no more than around £4.
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