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Baked Risotto

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Baked Risotto on virginiawillis.com

Classic Italian risotto is creamy and comforting. Tender rice flavored with wine and nutty-rich Parmesan cheese and sweet butter. Do you love risotto, but standing at a stove-top and stirring for 30 minutes is more than you can take? Try my easy Baked Risotto that can be a blank canvas for all sorts of add-ins.

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

What Type of Rice Makes the Best Risotto?

Typically, risotto is made by adding heated liquid to the short-grain rice a little at a time. This cooking technique activates the starch on the outside of the grain of rice, resulting in a creamy risotto. There are three primary cultivars of Italian short-grain rice found in the United States used to make risotto. Arborio rice is the most widely available. It is short-grained rice named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, in the main region of Piedmont in Italy. The second, Carnaroli is considered the “caviar” of risotto rice. It has great flavor and each grain maintains its shape, producing a very creamy risotto. Its thick, short kernels can absorb twice their weight in liquid, yet retain a firm, satisfying texture. Lastly, the Protected Geographical Indication “Nano Vialone Veronese” refers only to rice obtained from seeds rigorously selected from the japonica species of the Vialone Nano variety and grown to mandated specifications. It’s considered to be the finest of all the Italian short-grain rice.

What does short-grain mean? Varieties of rice are grouped as long, medium, or short grain according to their length and width. Long-grain rice is about four times as long as it is wide, the medium grain is twice as long, and short-grain is almost round. Typically, long-grain rice contains less starch and shorter grain rice contains more starch.

Remember this by thinking about the letter S: The Shorter the grain means higher Starch content and the Stickier the rice will be. Short = Starchy and Sticky. (Having said all of that, if you have long grain or sushi rice on hand, use that. It may not be risotto, but it’s a flexible recipe and you’ll still have an oven-baked rice casserole.)

Carolina Gold on virginiawillis.com

Carolina Gold 

One of the primary grains of the South has always been rice. (The other primary grain is corn, not wheat.) Rice farming started on the coastal sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia in the late 1600s. For the next 100 years, the economy of South Carolina was overwhelmingly based on the cultivation of rice, making it one of the richest of the North American colonies. As a result of the capital and its principal port, Charleston, became one of the wealthiest and most fashionable cities in early America. Later, because of the extraordinary success in South Carolina, the rice plantation system was extended farther south into coastal Georgia, where it also prospered.

Food folklore has it that the first rice was delivered to Charleston by a ship weathering a storm. That may have been a spot of luck, but it ended there. Initially, the South Carolina planters were ignorant of how to grow and cultivate rice. They soon began importing slaves from the traditional rice-growing regions of West Africa and were willing to pay higher prices for slaves from the “Rice Coast.” During the Colonial period, coastal South Carolina was the largest producer of rice in America. The primary product, Carolina Gold,so named because of the golden color of its husk, developed a reputation in Europe as the finest rice in the world and was exported to kitchens and tables all over the globe — including Italy! 

Glenn Roberts is the founder of Anson Mills, an artisan milling company that specializes in organic heirloom and landrace grains, including Carolina Gold. (Landrace is a crop cultivar or animal breed that has been developed through traditional farming practices for many years in a particular area without influence from modern agricultural science.) I’ve featured Anson Mills in my books for years and a huge fan of the folks at of the good work they do to preserve heirloom grains. Always, and especially now, I am trying to support privately-owned small businesses and farms. Carolina Gold makes an incredible traditional risotto and works fantastic in this Baked Risotto, too. Please check their website and give them some support. 

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Hands Off

Risotto is incredible when properly prepared, but frankly, it can be a bit tedious standing and slowly, constantly stirring a pot for 30 minutes. In my recipe for Baked Risotto, the risotto is baked, then stirred vigorously at the end of cooking to activate the starch and make the risotto creamy. Here, cooked broccoli is folded in and the “casserole” is topped with a judicious amount of cheese. You could use also use sauteed asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, cooked chicken, or seafood. And, this blank canvas could be a smart way to use up leftovers such as roasted or grilled vegetables. Baked Risotto gives a whole new meaning to easy comfort.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy my Baked Risotto! Let me know what you think. Stay safe!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis

PS Need another broccoli recipe? Check out my version of Wicked Healthy Broccoli Slaw

 Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Baked Risotto

Ditch standing at the stovetop and stirring risotto! Give this easy oven-baked version a try -- and treat it like a blank canvas. This technique is perfect for folding in many different cooked vegetables or proteins. And, if you keep it loaded up with vegetables, it's a perfect pillow of creamy goodness for baked chicken or fish.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian, Southern
Keyword: broccoli, casserole, risotto
Servings: 6
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups reduced-fat low sodium or homemade chicken stock divided or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets (or see other suggestions)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter diced
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a heavy-duty Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.
  • Meanwhile, if using raw broccoli or cauliflower, prepare the broccoli about 10 minutes before the risotto is ready to come out of the oven. Cut the head into florets. Peel the stem and slice it in into "coins" about 1/4-inch thick. Place the prepared stems in a glass bowl and add 1/4-cup water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook in the microwave until just barely tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and add the florets to the partially cooked stems. Cover again and cook in the microwave until the florets are bright green and the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Set the broccoli aside.
  • Or, you could also saute mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, or your favorite vegetable. (I would stay away from watery ones such as zucchini or yellow squash.) And, if using previously cooked (aka leftovers) here's the time to heat them up before adding to the baked risotto. Ditto if adding a protein like chicken or seafood - both must be already cooked before adding at the end of cooking the Baked Risotto.
  • After 45 minutes, remove the risotto from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, half of the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or a whisk until the rice is thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Fold in your vegetable or protein of choice. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and return to the oven until melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Darlene Pierce

    I made the baked risotto with broc and asparagus. Served it with blackened salmon. Delish! I’ll post pics on FB.

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