Sweet Pea & Basil Risotto

As they say, there’s a first for everything. And this was the first time one of my guests got sick the day of the shoot! Thankfully Chef Mia Castro was kind enough to let us share her recipe without her! You’re actually going to get two versions out of this because I made some changes that I felt better suited the home cook, so you’ll get the chef’s version and mine!

But this dish is amazing - packed with flavor, healthy ingredients and perfect for Spring! Rice, as you may or may not know, is not only a whole grain, it’s gluten free. Making risotto one of the best gluten free main dishes I could think of! Especially because it feels fancy, despite being incredibly easy to make! Either arborio or carnaroli grains can be used in risotto. Both have a high starch content that creates the creamy texture in risotto.

Then there’s those fresh spring peas! While a lot of people know that peas are starchy, what you may not realize is that they’re also very high in protein as far as vegetables go! So while about 70% of their calories DO come from carbs, the balance is pretty much protein. Giving them four times the amount of protein then say cooked carrots! Not only that, but those carbs are attached to loads of fiber, along with vitamins and minerals! That means it’s going to take your body a little longer to break it all apart, which won’t allow your blood sugar to spike. Plus all of those vitamins and minerals have been found to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease. More peas please!

The dish is finished off with some fresh basil, which has been found to be a highly anti-inflammatory herb! Basil is full of antioxidants which help clear toxins from the body. It’s also antibacterial AND has been found to help the body cope with stress! When you combine it with the finishing touches of lemon which is also antibacterial (and antiviral), you get a dish that’s full of health benefits!

Watch the video below and try the recipe at home!
Buon Appetito!

Sweet Pea and Basil Risotto with Pancetta
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Mia Castro
Serves 4

For sweet pea & basil puree:

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
1 ea. Shallot, chopped
1 C water
1 1/2 C sweet peas (fresh preferably)
1 C lg. basil leaves
1 ea. lemon (zest & juice)
t.t. salt

Melt butter and oil together at medium heat.

Add shallots, sautée gently until translucent (no color).

Add water, bring to boil.

Add peas, cook until tender (1-2 minutes).

Blend hot mixture until smooth.

Add basil leaves, lemon zest, 1/2 of lemon juice, salt to taste.

Cool rapidly and reserve, or use immediately.

For pancetta (optional):
8 oz. pancetta, small diced
3 T oil

On a medium sautée pan, over medium-high heat, sautée pancetta in oil, stirring constantly until fat is rendered and it's crispy all around.

Drain fat, reserve it.

Hold crispy pancetta at room temperature on paper towel.  

For risotto:
3 T reserved "pancetta oil" (use olive oil for vegetarian version)
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, small diced
3 ea. garlic cloves, minced
1 C carnaroli rice
1 C dry white wine
3 C chicken broth (keep hot on stove / use vegetable broth for vegetarian version)
3/4 C fresh, sweet peas (raw)
1 C sweet pea and basil puree
3 T butter
1/2 C parmigiano reggiano (grated)
1 ea. lemon (zest & juice)
t.t. salt

For garnish:
Crispy pancetta (if desired)
parmigiana reggiano
lemon zest
small basil leaves

In a medium-sized pot, over medium-high heat, heat up "pancetta oil and olive oil. Add onion, and sautée gently until translucent (no color).

Add garlic, sautée until aromatic (no color).

Add rice, toast until grains are hot to touch (no color). Turn heat to medium.

Add white wine, stir gently and continuously until rice has absorbed wine.

Add hot stock to cover rice. Stir gently and continuously until rice has absorbed stock. Season with salt. Repeat once.

Add sweet peas, puree, butter, parmigiano reggiano, lemon zest and juice. Stir until creamy but not lumpy. Rice should be al dente. Adjust seasoning with more salt.

Serve on flat plate. Allow rice to spread out on plate.

Finish with crispy pancetta, fresh lemon zest, fresh grated parmigiano reggiano, and small basil leaves.

Sweet Pea & Basil Risotto
by Cara Di Falco
Serves 4

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 C. chopped, fresh basil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 C. arborio or carnaroli rice
1 C. white wine
3 C. vegetable stock
1 C. peas
salt & pepper

Heat stock in a sauce pan over low heat.

Heat a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot, add shallot and sauté until soft and translucent.

Add garlic, half of the chopped basil and a pinch of lemon zest to the oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pan and stir until the oil is absorbed and the grains become opaque on either end.

Add the white wine to the pan and stir until the wine is absorbed.

Add about 1 C. of warm stock to the pan, and continue stirring slowly until the stock has been absorbed and the pan begins to look dry. Repeat this process until rice is almost cooked, about 17-18 minutes. Taste rice as you go and adjust flavor with salt. Rice should be al dente.

Add peas and lemon juice to the risotto and stir in. Finish cooking risotto for another 2 minutes, adding more stock if necessary. Finish with more fresh basil and lemon zest. Top with fresh parmigiana and pepper before serving.