The first time I prepared this risotto it was very much an improvisation because I had some zucchini that needed to be used up, and I regretted not taking photos for the blog. But it was a good excuse to make it again soon, and Kees surely did not mind. It is basically the risotto version of this dish. What makes this dish so great is the pine kernels, that should be lightly toasted. But also the flavor of the zucchini and basil comes through very nicely, and the parmigiano adds the all-important umami. It is not a traditional Italian dish, at least not that I’m aware of, but it is so good that I don’t care. I used chicken stock, but you could easily make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead. As usual with risotto, the quality of the stock is very important and it should contain little or no salt, so homemade is the best.
For 2 servings
500 grams (1.1 lbs) zucchini
150 grams (3/4 cup) risotto rice, I used carnaroli
30 grams (1 oz, 3 Tbsp) pine kernels
6 large or 12 small fresh basil leaves
30 grams (1 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
4 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and thickly sliced
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a wide thick-bottomed pan that you will use for the risotto. Add the onion and stir over medium-low heat until the onion is soft…
…about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the zucchini. Remove the soft center and slice thin julienne out of the rest. I used the spiralizer…
…and then roughly chopped the spiralized zucchini.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, and add the garlic. Cook for a minute over medium heat.
Add the pine kernels and cook for another minute or so. The pine kernels should be lightly toasted but not too dark.
Add the zucchini, and stir fry over high heat…
…until the zucchini is starting to color. Turn off the heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove and discard the garlic.
Heat up the stock and keep it hot (but not boiling).
Add the rice to the onions. Season with salt.
Toast the rice over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the white wine, and stir until it has been absorbed.
Add a ladle of hot stock.
Stir until the stock has been absorbed, then add another ladle of stock. Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, about 16 to 18 minutes.
Taste the rice to make sure it is properly cooked.
Add the zucchini and a ladle of hot stock. Stir until the rice starts to simmer again, then turn off the heat. Add another ladle of stock if needed. The risotto should not be dry, but not too soupy either.
Add the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
Stir to mix and allow the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes.
In the meantime, slice the basil (do not chop it) with a sharp knife. Try to bruise the basil as little as possible. Add the basil to the risotto…
…and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve on preheated plates, sprinkled with some more parmigiano.
This dish brings back memories of all the great food we had in Taiwan, and makes me regret even more that this year we could not go there. These soup dumplings are delicious and worth the effort. The trick to getting the soup inside the dumpling is to make pork stock with plenty of gelatin and then cool it until it sets. The stock is now solid and can be added to the filling of the dumplings. When the dumpling is steamed, the soup will become liquid again. We had these a couple of times in Taiwan, and loved them every time. This homemade version is at least as good.