Emily's Tomato Risotto
Emily's Tomato Risotto

When a talented assistant of mine returned from a walking tour through the English countryside, it wasn't the landscape she wanted to discuss. Instead, she couldn't wait to tell me about a luncheon dish -- a tomato risotto -- she had devoured in a small inn en route. Not expecting to find an Italian specialty on the British menu, she was stunned by the delectable creativity of this entree and was anxious to try duplicating it at home.

After several days of testing, my talented friend came up with a close facsimile. She began traditionally by sauteing chopped shallots in butter and oil, then adding Arborio rice to the saucepan. However, in place of using the classic simmering broth to cook the rice slowly, she combined chicken stock with tomato sauce for a jolt of tomato flavor and color. Once the risotto was stirred and cooked to a creamy consistency, chopped fresh tomatoes, minced basil, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese were stirred in. The resulting dish was a rich, rust-toned risotto studded with bits of red and green. For serving, the rice was mounded in shallow bowls and then garnished with basil and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

This risotto would make a fine opener for a fall dinner for four, or you could serve larger portions and offer it as a main course for two or three. Either way, I believe you'll agree that this special dish is as tempting on this side of the Atlantic as on the other.

Emily's Tomato Risotto Recipe

Serves 4 as a first course or 2 to 3 as a main course

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots, divided

4 cups chicken stock (not reduced sodium)

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon plus 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano), plus shavings for garnish

1 cup seeded, diced (1/4 inch cubes) fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup finely chopped basil, plus basil sprigs for garnish

Kosher salt

In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar over high heat until reduced to 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon chopped shallots and set aside.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the stock and tomato sauce. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and keep at a simmer.

In another medium heavy saucepan, melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 cup shallots and saute, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, 1 minute more. Add wine and stir until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock/tomato mixture and stir constantly until all of the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the stock in 1/2 cup increments in this manner, stirring constantly so that the rice does not stick. This should take 25 to 30 minutes. When finished, the risotto should be creamy, not runny, and the rice should be tender, but not mushy.

Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese. Fold the tomatoes and chopped basil into the risotto. Season with salt if needed.

Divide and mound the risotto among 4 bowls and drizzle each serving with a generous teaspoon of the balsamic/shallot mixture. Then drizzle each serving with a teaspoon of the remaining olive oil. Garnish each serving with some shaved Parmesan and basil sprigs.


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