Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 16, 2010

Tomato Risotto

For this dish, you will want the ‘right’ kind of rice. Risotto is marvelously sensual when it’s properly made. When it isn’t, it’s gluey and dull. Needless to say, you want a tomato risotto that sings opera rather than humming Air Supply.

 And what is that ‘right’ kind of rice? Well, carnaroli is considered THE classic rice for risottos of any ilk, but Arborio is also widely available. There are other rices of Italian pedigree which will work about as well (and they’ll say so on the label, and may even be lest costly than the carnaroli). But you might also try any extra-short grained rice of domestic origin. Whatever you do, don’t try to make risotto with minute rice–it isn’t absorptive enough. Certainly if you’re in a store with a goodly range of rices for sale, you may wish to consult with someone knowledgeable on staff–if such a person should be present when you’re ready to make your purchase.

Consider as well your entire menu when serving risotto. Risotto is a soft, soothing food. It might be preceded by a spicy bean dip on tortilla chips. Or it might be followed by falafels with all the fixin’s, or crepes stuffed with stir-fried veggies retaining lots of their texture. Whatever comes before or after the risotto it should want a lot of chewing and need a table implement that isn’t a spoon. Even a big green salad with lots of interesting veggie bits would serve the purpose–and in hot weather there’s nothing quite as fresh and delightful.

Tomato Risotto

1 cup good risotto rice

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil and/or butter

2 TBSP dry white wine or vermouth

2 lbs of heirloom tomatoes, skinned and seeded (dip them in boiling water for up to half a minute until their skins start to split, they’ll peel away magically), and roughly chopped

enough stock, chicken or veg (if your tomatoes are particularly flavorful, you could use water here), to make up  3 2/3 cups when added to the processed tomatoes

1/2 tsp saffron (optional but lovely)

salt and pepper to taste

In a smallish sauce pan, heat the vermouth and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes and the stock or water and let this mixture become hot enough to bubble around the edges of the pan.

Heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy sauté pan. Stir in the rice and keep it moving over moderate heat until the ends of the rice become translucent–about 7 to 10 minutes. Add a ladle full of hot liquid to the rice.  Stir as the rice absorbs the liquid. Add a couple of tablespoons of the hot liquid to the saffron threads in a small bowl, if using–and allow to soak for five to ten minutes.

Continue to add the hot liquid by the ladle-full and stir it in until nearly all of it is absorbed. Add the saffron threads about one third of the way through this process. It will take about 18 to 25 minutes to prepare the risotto–depending on the heat under your pan and the freshness of the rice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You may garnish this dish with chopped heirloom tomato in a contrasting color to the ones in the risotto. A little minced fennel top or basil is also divine. You may wish to grate some good parmesan, asiago or romano onto the finished risotto–or not. This is a shriekingly simple dish which speaks in mellow tones of the pleasures of garden fresh produce.



  1. YUM. Btw, your post on tomatoes inspired me to buy a bunch of crazy lookin’ specimens at the farmer’s market on Saturday. I’ve already done a tomato basil salad and some delish ratatouille. Thanks for keeping the creative cooking juices flowing!

    • Isn’t it great to eat as many fresh, ripe tomatoes as you can lay your hands on? That’s what farmers’ markets are for, this time of year. Yaaay! for inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: