Friday, April 8, 2011

Lemony Risotto

Risotto is a dish that takes a little loving care but is really quite easy to make well. I am going to give you all the instructions you need to make a delicious risotto with a lemony twist that will compliment the blackened salmon recipe I gave you a few days ago but is also quite able to take a starring role as a light main dish. You always have options with my recipes so note the optional vegetables at the end that you can add. Fennel is awesome in this risotto but can be a bit pricy and not everyone likes fennel. Asparagus is a great option for spring. However, this risotto is wonderful without any extras, too.

Risotto, for those who may not have experienced it, is a creamy, flavorful rice that does not use lots of cheese or any cream. Instead, the creaminess comes from the rice itself and the way it is prepared. You could even skip the cheese/butter altogether if lactose is an issue!

A note on the rice for risotto: the only rice I can recommend for this is Arborio rice. I have not used anything else. It is now widely available in American markets. When I first started making risotto, around 12 years ago, Arborio rice was very hard to find and I had to go to specialty stores to get it.

The risotto I will share today is kissed with a bit of lemony goodness that compliments fish, chicken or can be a main dish.  Remember, my recipes are guidelines that can be varied or altered to fit the tastes of your dinner guests! As I said, you could skip the butter and cheese, although I would not unless I am serving this to vegan or lactose intolerant friends.  If you don’t have parsley or almonds, that would be fine, too. As you can see from my photo, I did not garnish much this time.  Just play with this. I will post a mushroom risotto soon!

Lemony Risotto

  1 1/2  TBSP Butter
  1 1/2    TBSP Olive Oil, -- Extra Virgin
 1 Small Onion, diced, about  1/2 -3/4 Cup 
  2 Garlic Cloves – crushed or minced
  2  1/4   Cups  Arborio Rice
  4-6 Cups Broth, See note
1-2 cups water
1 large lemon, whole. Use more lemon if you prefer!
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. herb mix such as Herbs de Provence or Italian
 1 Cup White Wine
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese,
Salt, to taste (about a tsp.)
1/3-1/2 cup or so sliced almonds, optional

Note:  Broth for risotto can be homemade or canned/boxed and, of course, homemade is best but I honestly use a box most of the time. For lemon risotto, I would use chicken or vegetable if there will be vegetarians at table. The stock gives the risotto its flavor so do use a good one. When you begin, place broth on stove to simmer during the whole cooking process. It should stay as hot as the risotto pan.  I normally use 4-5 cups and add a cup of water into the simmering pot. If you run low on broth, add more water to the pot and keep it simmering. If you prefer to omit the white wine, you may substitute an extra cup of broth but this is not recommended.

Using a wide saucepan, oversized skillet or dutch oven, heat on medium low and add butter and olive oil. Sauté onion for a couple minutes.
While this is cooking, wash lemon. You may use one large, or two small lemons or even add a bit of bottled lemon juice to make this more flavorful. Next zest the lemon, using a zester or a grater. Your goal is to get the “zest” which is the yellow part of the skin but not the white bitter layer. Once it is zested/grated, chop the zest very, very fine. Juice the lemon, removing seeds. Half of the lemon juice will go into broth along with half of the zest. Also, throw the lemon rinds in the broth (and leave them in broth pan, don’t place in with rice J )
Now add the garlic to the onion in the big pan and sauté for a minute. Add Arborio rice and stir for a couple minutes with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat.  Add lemon pepper and herbs along with white wine and stir until most of the wine is absorbed.
A note on stirring risotto, you will need to stir almost constantly to get the nice creamy texture. This is a good job for one of your guests that want to help. Stir gently in a figure 8 pattern for optimum results. Do not batter the rice grains and try to stir every part of the pot.
Once most of the wine is absorbed and the track of the spoon remains in the rice, add a ladle or two of hot broth. Stirring, repeat this process as each cup of stock is absorbed. 
Begin checking for doneness after about 15 minutes. It is done when the rice is al dente, tender on the outside with a bit of chewiness on the inside.
You should be keeping an eye on the level of broth and save about a 1/3-1/2 cup of stock to add just before rice is done. If you are getting low, add a bit of water, or more broth if you have it handy.
Once rice is a 2-4 minutes from done, add the rest of the lemon zest and lemon juice. About 1 minute from done, add the last ladle of broth and lower heat. Once the rice is the perfect al dente texture,toss in ¼ c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and gently mix.  Just before serving, add the chopped parsley, reserving a bit to garnish the top on the plate. Once your guests are seated, plate up the risotto and garnish with a bit more of the cheese, parsley and slice almonds if desired.
This makes 4 or so servings as a side dish.
Vegetable options- If you would like you could add in one of these optional vegetables -
1 small fennel bulb, Or 1 sm. bunch asparagus
With Fennel- If using Fennel I thinly slice the bulb and add to onions with the garlic.  I put the upper stalks in with the broth to flavor it but I do not add them to the risotto. I save a few fronds to garnish at the end.
With Asparagus – After removing tough woody bit at the bottom, I cut it into bite-sized pieces. Add the lower parts to the broth about 5 minutes before risotto is done (12-15 minutes into cooking) and add the tender tops right at the end, about 1-2 minute before the last ladle.

Recipe by Denise Birdsall. All rights reserved 2011


  1. Mmm...I was was hoping you do a lovely post to go with that fish from the other day. I think I'd have to go with the fennel on this one. Great recipe!

  2. Oooah, lemon risotto, this sounds delightful!

  3. I am so glad you like this. Yeah, I am partial to this with Fennel. But I made it without the other day and everyone loved it so ...whatever. Hope you both enjoy!! Thanks for your comments!

  4. Hi Denise! Thank you for visiting my site and I'm glad to find yours! :-) Lemon risotto! I can't wait your mushroom one, but I will cook this lemon risotto soon. I have so many lemons from Costco and I appreciate any kind of lemon recipes. Haha. I know you like using arborio rice but let me try with Japanese rice. It is short grain and doesn't have smell like Jasmine rice so hopefully it will work. If not, I will buy arborio since I love Risotto anyway! Thank you for the detail instructions!

    p.s. I don't see Name/URL option below and I guess I have no choice but using my personal google account?

    Nami @ Just One (

  5. Hi! Thanks for the add on FB ~ we must have lemon on the mind; just made a lemon bundt cake. Your risotto looks so good!

  6. I hope you like it! I haven't tried this with Japanese rice but I have been tempted. I always have a large bag of japanese rice on hand. Do let me know how it turns out. And sorry I don't have a name/URL option but I am not sure what that is.

    Your welcome and thanks Frieda! Yes, I am in a lemon mood. I love lemon cake and hope to have some soon!!

  7. Hi Denise!

    Sorry I should have explained it better. Under the comment box, there is Comment as [Select Profile], right? Usually I see other people have Name/URL option, where a blogger can put their name and their link. I think it's just how you set it up. Don't worry. I just use Google Acct since I don't have Live Journal, Wordpress, TypePad, AIM, or OpenID (not sure what that is).


  8. Thanks for explaining. I want to get this stuff figured out but there is a lot I don't know :-)

  9. Risotto is one of my favorites and lemon is my favorite ingredient to use in it, I use lots of zest too. Wonderful recipe Denise!

  10. Thanks! I agree with you on both counts! Lemon can add pizazz to so many recipes, I just love it. I miss having lemon trees, one of the drawbacks of moving from California to Colorado.At one house, I had a meyers lemon right outside my window, which meant fragrant flowers and fruit to enjoy!
    BTW, I am going to try your cream cheese mints today. This is a totally new thing for me so I hope it works! They sound great. I will post on your blog about how I do!