Risotto with Sundried Tomatoes, Asparagus, and Mushrooms

Risotto is one of those simple, humble meals that can elevate a few good ingredients to mythical heights.  It’s my definition of comfort food.  Usually comfort food is heart-attack food, but not the No Meat Athlete kind!

[Risotto photo]Risotto is made from a special rice grain (Arborio or Carnaroli) which is simmered in the cooking liquid long enough to release a lot of its starch.  The result, when done right, is a creamy, chewy but just al dente pasta-like rice, with a heavenly consistency somewhere well between mashed potatoes and soup.  When done wrong and at one of these extremes or the other, it’s pretty much awful.  But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to make; if you a follow a few simple directions and are willing to stand at the stove for 25 or 30 minutes, then it’s pretty easy to make a great risotto.

I know the picture isn’t the most appetizing thing in the world.  Besides the fact that I need to get on Picasa to start brightening photos, this risotto just isn’t a looker.  But the funny thing is, I think the fact that it tasted so great is the reason it looks just ok.  Why?  The vegetable stock!  I used a brand called Kitchen Basics, something I’ve seen before but never used.  A little more expensive than the Swanson, but the color is much darker and the aroma reminded me of the great smell that comes out of barley steeping in water that eventually becomes beer.  I believe that the dark color is a by-product of great taste, and that color is what makes the finished risotto look pretty dull.

[Veggie Stock photo]When people make bad risotto, it’s usually for one of two reasons.  Either they add the liquid to the rice all at once and make rice soup, or they stir the whole time and make ricey mashed potatoes.  The trick is to add the liquid a little bit at a time and let it absorb, and to only do a lot of stirring at the beginning to start releasing the starch.  Do those two things and it will be good.  I’ll even slap the No Meat Athlete guarantee on that.

The ingredient list I used is similar to that from a recipe I found in a Vegetarian Times cookbook.  But I didn’t like their cooking method, so I used my own.  I’ve specified imported Arborio; if you can only find domestic it’s ok, but try to find imported at an Italian foods store for the best results.  I know white rice isn’t the greatest carbohydrate you can have, so this isn’t an everyday meal, but it does use a lot of vegetables and some healthy fats. And if you’re exercising a lot then some simple carbs won’t kill you; in fact, if you eat them immediately post-workout, they’re the best!  I did a little research and found out that there is such a thing as brown arborio rice though, and supposedly the finished product is a little chewier, better for more rustic, pumpkiny-type dishes.  My guess is you’d have to order it online if you wanted to use it.

So here you go!  I really encourage you to give it a try.  A lot of people are intimidated by risotto, but it’s pretty easy, and if you make it for someone, they will love you forever (they’ll really love you if you stir in some butter at the end, but I can’t put my stamp on that one).  And if you want to try something a little different, look for a butternut squash risotta recipe and prepare to be blown away.  And I almost forgot: 4 cows out of 5.  The butternut squash version with butter would be a “5”!

Vegetarian Risotto Recipe

4.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Vegetarian Risotto
Serves: 5 servings
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, halved, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 2 cups imported Arborio rice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 12 sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced asparagus
  • 1.5 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • ½ cup torn or chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it's boiling, reduce to a simmer and keep it there.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leek, and garlic; stir frequently for about 3 minutes until just softened. Add the rice and a pinch of pepper, and stir frequently to toast the rice without letting it get brown. After about 5 minutes, you should hear the rice quietly squeek or whistle, your signal to begin adding liquid. Add about 1.5-2 cups of the stock and stir constantly for a few minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. You know it's time to add more when you can run your spoon through the rice and see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds before the rice covers it again. Add 1 cup of the stock, stir for about 30 seconds, then only often enough to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. Once the liquid is absorbed, add another cup, stir for 30 seconds, and repeat the process until there's only about 1 cup of stock left or the rice is nearly al dente.
  3. After the rice has been cooking for about 5 minutes (say, after the initial amount of liquid is absorbed), steam the asparagus, mushrooms, and basil until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes) in a saucepan or microwave (I actually steamed them over the simmering vegetable stock). When the rice seems almost done or there's only a cup of stock left, add all the vegetables to the rice mixture with a cup of the stock (if the stock isn't all used up, it's ok). Stir the rice and vegetables together for just a few minutes until the rice is al dente. Stir in the Parmesan, if using, and enjoy!


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  1. This is the first one that just looks too gross to try.

  2. I ain’t too proud to admit that it doesn’t look good at all. I should have chosen butternut squash risotto to post a picture of because it’s a really nice orange color. I’m even thinking of taking this post down until I put the next up, so that people stumbling onto the site aren’t greeted by green risotto.

  3. christine says:

    oh no, don’t take it down! I totally had the opposite reaction! When I saw this pic, it was an instant flashback to all the yummy risotto dishes I had in Florence. My Italian host-mother always made some sort of mushroom-gorgonzola risotto; it looked just like this! Yum!

    • I love risotto and this one looks so good. I may try this one out when I get a free Sat. or Sun. to cook.

      • I am surprised that you like risotto, and especially that you think this one looks good, given your historically weak stomach. But I’m glad to hear it. You should definitely try making it. And it doesn’t take a whole free Saturday or Sunday, just 30-40 minutes!

    • Don’t worry, I never took it down. Somehow I think that sort of editing and removing posts after the fact is frowned upon in the blogosphere. Have to remain “transparent.” I’m glad to hear that real risotto dishes look that way! Usually when I make them they have something that provides a nice color, like champagne, red wine, butternut squash. Something besides brown-green vegetable stock. Good vegetable stock though! But of course not as good as your homemade kind 🙂

  4. This dish does LOOK good! I love risotto. However, when you alluded to it’s disugusting appearance, it did sort of bring back memories of Woolfie’s unwelcome stomach upsets on the carpet. I’m going to try to not think of that when I make it. Galaxy66 in Ocean City has a wonderful risotto selection on their menu- which is where I first had it. They fold cheese into the risotto… very tasty!

  5. Pat, you’re the man who gags at the smell of mayo, but this looks good to you?

  6. Just made this last night for my wife and we both love it! And, it looks a lot better in person than the picture 🙂

  7. This was actually the first recipe I clicked on after looking through all of them on Facebook. I think it looks and sounds delicious as do all of your recipes! Y

  8. brendan daly says:

    i am a big meat eater and i am a nearly qualified chef at theyoung age of 19, i have no doubt it tastes great but just doesnt look very appealing. maybe a lighter colour like u suggested befored like butternut squash would surly give it great reviews, keep up the good work

  9. Jessica McIntyre says:

    Made this for dinner tonight. So so tasty!!!! We had one bowl (my boyfriends) without the parmesan and I loaded it up because I am obsessed. So happy to say that both were amazing! Its such a simple and easy recipe and jam packed full of flavour considering the ingredients. Definitely making this again.

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