Recently, I’m in love with simple food. So, risotto with lemon and basil only, sounds like perfection. Few years ago I would say that such uncomplicated dish was extremely boring. Now, I find it beautiful. Minimalistic, light, but also tricky. Simple dishes require our interrupted attention, high quality ingredients, perfect balance. If we forget about these things, we might end up just with common, quite edible meal. No fireworks.
In this risotto everything has to be perfect. First of all, broth. Deep, aromatic, long cooked. Next, olive oil, which starts and finishes the dish. I rarely use extra verging olive oil for frying, but in this recipe I make exception. I recommend to use olive oil with acidity below 0.8% and made in one place (I say no to all the olive oils ‘made of mixed oils from UE’). Third, very important factor is the wine. It has to be dry, so even when you enjoying drinking sweet you have to stick to the dry one. And of course strong basics: arborio rice, ripe lemon and fresh basil.
Then, slow and cautious preparation. Chopping onions perfectly, aroma of rice mixed with olive oil, stopping myself from stirring too much. Finishing touches: drizzling with olive oil, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. All of these to achieve this perfect, balanced taste.
Lemon and basil risotto
based on recipe from “Vegetables from an Italian garden”
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for drizzling
½ onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
320g risotto rice
200ml dry white wine
½ tsp grated lemon rind
juice from 1 lemon, strained*
2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
* I add lemon juice gradually to achieve perfect acidity. Usually I need to juice from ¾ lemon. If you are not adding nutritional yeast you may need even less
1. Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a boil and keep it hot. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil i a large pan.
2. Add the onion and shallot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until grains are coated in oil.
3. Add the wine and cook until alcohol has evaporated, then season with salt.
4. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stir and wait until it has been absorbed. Continue to add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring from time to time, until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. It will takes about 20 minutes. Original recipe asks for stirring all the time, I reduce stirring to minimum. I read somewhere that too much strain brakes the grains.
5. At the end of cooking , stir in the lemon rind and nutritional yeast. When the rice is tender and creamy, remove the pan from the heat, drizzle with olive oil and add the lemon juice (gradually, remember to taste). Add chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.