Risotto is one of my favorite “let’s make dinner feel fancy” foods. It always seems like more of a treat to me than a typical rice/quinoa/cous cous side dish. Now, call me crazy but I love to make risotto the traditional way where you commit to constant stirring for 30 minutes. Give me a glass of wine and a wooden spoon and I might as well be on my yoga mat meditating.
Last Christmas as I was scouring the Internet for recipe inspiration for some holiday dinners I came upon a Baked Lemon Risotto from one of my favorite bloggers, Joy the Baker. It seemed to be the perfect complement to another recipe that I’d discovered, Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken. A baked risotto appealed to me because I knew I would have so much going on in the kitchen to prepare dinner and dessert.
I followed Joy’s recipe exactly the first time I made the risotto but I’ve made it several times since and have ended up modifying the recipe a bit so I wanted to share my version with you.
Overall, this recipe is easily customizable. You could use whatever herbs work well with the main course you’re serving and although the lemon does a lot to brighten up the overall flavor of the dish, it could easily be omitted if it doesn’t work with what you’re serving. Also, I’ve started to play with add ins like mushrooms and sundried tomatoes which I’ve really enjoyed.
The preparation of the risotto is very simple and it’s ready to go in the oven in less than 10 minutes. Once you put it in to bake it’s pretty hands off for over half an hour so it leaves you plenty of time to finish cooking, entertain guests, etc. You want to start checking it after about 30 minutes for texture and to see if more liquid is necessary but other than that it’s pretty low maintenance.
I have to say that the baked risotto isn’t quite as creamy as hand-stirred risotto but for how easy it is to prepare, I’ll take it. I have served this dish to several people and received nothing but great feedback on the texture and taste. The craziest thing about risotto to me is that it seems so indulgent but it’s really not so bad for you. Joy actually adapted this recipe from Weight Watchers. There is minimal butter and oil in this recipe. The creaminess of the risotto comes from the broth and cheese.
If you’re a risotto lover who doesn’t have the time to stand over the stove you much try this recipe!
Baked Lemon-Thyme Risotto
(Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (optional, I also love this dish with just the mushrooms)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
16 ounces chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white wine (optional…can replace with chicken broth)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Cheese, lemon zest, thyme leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook until onions and mushrooms have softened and are lightly browned. Add lemon zest, thyme leaves and wine and let skillet deglaze with wine for about 30 seconds, scraping the bottom of the skillet to bring up any browned bits and to stir everything together. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together uncooked rice, cheese and onion mushroom mixture. Place in an 8 x 8 baking dish and then pour chicken stock and water over the mixture. Gently stir.
Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes and then begin to check your risotto to see if additional cook time or liquid is needed. Rice is done when liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through and soft. If your rice is still crunchy add more stock or water a little bit at a time and continue baking in 5 minute increments.
Once ready, remove from oven and allow to cool. Taste for salt/seasoning and add as necessary. Garnish with lemon zest, cheese and thyme sprigs.
Yield: 4-6 side dish servings
*Note: recipe can easily be doubled and cooked in a 13 x 9 pan for a larger crowd.