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Risotto can be easier than you think. These vegetarian recipes prove it.

Risotto can be easier than you think.  These vegetarian recipes prove it.

Risotto Tomato-Basil

Makes 4 servings

Medium grain Italian rice is essential for achieving a rich, creamy consistency as it has the ideal starch content. Arborio rice is the most common choice for risotto in the United States, but chefs in Milan — and on Milk Street — prefer carnaroli. We find that the grains retain their structure better and resist overcooking. However, with careful cooking, Arborio will produce delicious results. Our homemade vegetable stock is the best cooking liquid for this risotto; its fresh, clean taste will not compete with the other ingredients.

The rice does not need to be al dente before you remove the pan from the burner, as the residual heat will keep the grains from cooking.

Serve in preheated, shallow bowls to prevent the rice from cooling too quickly.

3½ cups vegetable stock (see next recipe)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

Kosher salt

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided

1 cup carnaroli or arborio rice

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup)

4 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

Prepare vegetable stock for risotto (recipe follows), omit carrots and increase tomatoes to 3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring stock, covered, to a boil, then reduce to low to keep warm. Combine the chopped tomatoes, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and chopped fresh basil; put aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add 2½ cups hot stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, until rice is just cooked through but still supple, 3 to 5 minutes. If the rice is thick and dry but the grains are still too firm, add the remaining hot stock in ¼ cup increments and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is just al dente.

Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 piece at a time. Taste and season with salt, then stir in the vinegar. When the risotto is ready, drain the liquid from the tomato-basil sauce. Garnish the risotto with the sauce.

Easy Vegetable Broth

Makes about 1 quart

This stock is ready in about 30 minutes. Use immediately after straining or let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to five days.

Do not simmer uncovered; partially covering the pan prevents excessive evaporation but allows for some concentration of flavors.

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 large celery sticks, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine all ingredients with 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pan, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to bring it to a brisk simmer.

Pour the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard the solids.

Risotto With Fresh HerbsConnie Miller/from CB Creatives

Risotto With Fresh Herbs

Makes 4 servings

We learned the principles of risotto from chefs in Milan: Max Masuelli (and his son Andrea) at Trattoria Masuelli San Marco, which uses no chicken stock or onion; and Diego Rossi, of Trippa, who showed us that skipping the traditional wine and adding a splash of sherry vinegar at the end gives a bright flavor (we use white balsamic).

The rice does not need to cook al dente before you remove the pan from the burner. The grains will continue cooking with the residual heat while the cheese and butter are stirred in.

This should also be served in heated, shallow bowls to prevent the rice from cooling too quickly.

3½ cups vegetable stock (see previous recipe)

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided

1 cup carnaroli or arborio rice

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/3 cup thinly sliced ​​scallions

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

Kosher salt

4 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock, covered, to a boil. Set on low to keep warm.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2½ cups hot stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, until grains are almost tender but still quite firm at the core (it will be quite smooth), 8 to 10 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to bring to a vigorous simmer.

Add ½ cup stock and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, until rice is just not al dente but still smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. If the rice is thick and dry but the grains are still too firm, add the remaining hot stock in ¼ cup increments and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is just al dente.

Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan cheese, thyme, scallions, parsley, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter, one at a time. Taste and season with salt, then stir in the vinegar. Serve immediately.

Zucchini and Saffron RisottoConnie Miller/from CB Creatives

Zucchini and Saffron Risotto

Makes 4 servings

This vegetarian risotto, a riff on a recipe from Rachael Ray Rachel Ray 50, gets its vibrant color from cooking liquid infused with saffron and is dotted with pieces of green zucchini that have been briefly fried. Arborio or carnaroli rice will work, although the former is probably easier to find in supermarkets.

Instead of gently cooking the rice, we stir it vigorously — and let it simmer vigorously — to release the starch in the grains, resulting in a creamy consistency in minimal time.

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons orange juice

½ teaspoon saffron threads

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large zucchini (about 1 pound), quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

2 Fresno peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup Arborio or carnaroli rice

2 ounces Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve

2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

½ cup lightly packed fresh basil, chopped

In a small saucepan, combine 4 cups of water, the orange zest, saffron, ½ teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover and set on low to keep warm.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the edges are browned but still crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chilies and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In the same pan over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until kernels are translucent around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and gently stir in 3 cups of the saffron water and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often and vigorously, until the kernels are still quite firm in the center, about 8 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to bring to a vigorous simmer.

Add remaining saffron stock and cook, stirring often and vigorously, until rice is al dente, 6 to 8 minutes; the risotto should be loose but not soupy. When stiff and dry, stir in 1 tablespoon of water at a time to get the right consistency.

Stir in the cheese and butter off the heat. Stir in the orange juice, basil and zucchini mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with extra cheese.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of full digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Visit 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to [email protected]