As I work my way through our very abundant zucchini harvest this summer, I will be posting a few new zucchini recipes. As well as zucchini, we are picking a bowlful of zucchini flowers daily that I feel the need to use in a productive way. Zucchini flowers do not have a lot of flavor on their own, but their vibrant color makes them a great addition to many dishes. I recently made this creamy risotto using up some of my zucchini and zucchini flowers. I also added a spoonful of basil pesto made fresh from my garden that really added a bright note to this dish. We’ve planted basil in pots all over our property and for some reason basil grows like a weed in these pots but doesn’t want to grow in the garden. I am constantly picking basil before it flowers and often make a batch of pesto to garnish a bowl of soup, to toss with hot pasta, or to stir into a risotto dish such as this one. If you do not have a supply of fresh basil on hand, you could use a good quality store brand pesto instead. Just a spoonful of pesto is all that is needed in this dish. If you use too much, it will take over and all you will taste is basil, and you’ll lose the summer fresh flavor of the zucchini.
You should use an Italian variety of rice that is specifically grown in Italy, such as Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Cararoli. Arborio can now be found in most American grocery stores, but certainly can be found at an Italian specialty store. I discovered an amazing brand of rice called Acquerello that has won multiple awards and creates the perfect risotto. This rice is sold in a blue and silver can, and is an aged Carnaroli variety of rice. Acquerello can be bought online or at some specialty stores. You can read more about this rice on their website. If you are new to preparing risotto, you might find my primer The Realities of Risotto.
Basil growing in one of the pots around our property.
Zucchini in our garden.
One day’s harvest of zucchini flowers.
Deborah Mele 2015
Summer Risotto With Zucchini, Zucchini Flowers & Pesto
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 1 Cup Dry White Wine
- 5 Cups Homemade Vegetable or Chicken Broth, Heated
- 1 1/2 Cups Finely Diced Zucchini (1/2-inch dice)
- 10 to 12 Zucchini Flowers, Stamens Removed & Diced
- 1 Tablespoon Homemade Basil Pesto
- 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Place the olive oil and half the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat until sizzling over medium heat.
- Add the onion, and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice completely with the oil mixture.
- Cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the wine to the pot, stir to mix, and continue to cook over medium heat until the wine has been absorbed.
- Add a ladleful of warm broth and continue to cook, stirring constantly.
- Halfway through the cooking period, or 10 minutes, add the diced zucchini.
- As each addition of broth has been absorbed, add another, stirring constantly until the rice is just slightly firm to the bite, about 20 minutes.
- With the last addition of broth, add the chopped zucchini flowers, pesto, and lemon juice.
- Stir to mix, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the butter and the grated cheese, and stir until the cheese has completely melted into the rice.
- Serve immediately on warm plates.