Last night’s supper resulted from the two of us thinking the other had taken the chicken thighs from the freezer that morning for my sheet-pan chicken with roasted tomatoes. When I asked my husband for them, he looked dumbfounded and replied “I thought you said you were going to do that.” Perhaps, it was my slip-up, but now I was faced with bowlful of diced grape tomatoes that needed to be used up.
As I stood there considering how to use them, Andrew suggested a recipe he had come across in The New York Times for a tomato risotto and brought it up online. It looked pretty good and after checking my pantry, I had all the ingredients but one—vegetable broth. No big deal, I’d substitute chicken, which went contrary to the recipe’s being more vegetarian. And that’s when I decided to throw in some butter as well. After all, what’s risotto without any butter?
The more I looked at the recipe, the less I liked it and the more I changed it. Its author, David Tanis, seemed to have been rushing the cooking of the rice by adding the broth/water in two installments: the first two cups all at once followed by 5 to 6 minutes of cooking and then the third cup followed by another 5 minutes. I’ve modified the recipe following the more traditional method of adding the broth more gradually and extending the cooking time from about 18 minutes to a little more than 30.
Another departure from the recipe was using diced grape tomatoes and pressing them until their skins started to crack and they rendered their juices. Other minor modifications included substituting shallots for the onion and mounting the risotto with butter rather than olive oil at the end of cooking.
Despite that this was a rather impromptu choice of recipes that I modified as I went along, our risotto was spectacular, far better than either of us had expected. Andrew commented “Out of this world!” The rice, saturated with concentrated tomato flavor, was perfectly al dente; the sauce, silky smooth. The Parmigiano added a hint of nuttiness, and the basil, a subtle floral note.
A perfect way to make the most of tomatoes that had reached their peak.
Tomato Risotto (adapted from a recipe by David Tanis in The New York Times)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, diced (about ¾ cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cups Carnaroli rice
Pinch of red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup white wine
1 cup diced red grape tomatoes
2 cups boiling chicken broth, plus boiling water if necessary
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Ripped basil, for garnish
1. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the onion, and season generously with salt. Add pepper to taste, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. (Because I decided to use butter in this recipe as I was cooking, the first photo below only shows the olive oil.)
2. Add the rice and cook the onions, stirring, until the onions are barely brown and the rice is coated with the fat, about 2 minutes. Add red-pepper flakes, garlic, white wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes more.
3. Add tomatoes and cook stirring until the tomatoes start to burst and render their juices, about 5 minutes more.
4 Begin to add the simmering broth, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time so that the broth just covers the rice. Regulate the heat so that the stock is bubbling, but not boiling. Too high, the rice will burn; too low, the rice will turn gluey. Stir often, making sure that rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. As the stock evaporates and the rice begins to dry, add another couple of ladlefuls of stock and continue to stir. Continue in this manner, until the rice is al dente, about 30 minutes. If during this process, you run out of stock, add simmering water.
5. Turn off the heat, stir in the Parmigiano and another tablespoon of butter.
6. Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with the ripped basil and additional cheese.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir