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Tomato and Basil Risotto

This is a recipe from the New York Times that a customer shared with me. She made it last week and says it is delicious. Since we are talking risotto, Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice. However, I like to make my "risotto" dishes with spelt berries, wheat berries, and the like. You get the benefit of a whole grain, the texture is firmer and the flavor is nuttier and earthier than you would get from any rice. I was surprised to see from April's Bon Appétit, that chefs agree with me. The thing to remember is that arborio rice releases lots of creamy starches. Whole grains like spelt will too, but you might need to add some cream or milk to get the right creamy texture. They also take longer to cook. Experiment with this recipe and tell us how it turns out!

 7 cups well seasoned vegetable stock, garlic stock or chicken stock
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1/2 cup minced onion
 Salt to taste
 2 garlic cloves, minced
 1 pound tomatoes, grated
 Pinch of sugar
 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
 Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
 1/2 cup dry white or rosé wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
 1/2 pound additional sweet ripe tomatoes, finely diced (about ¾ cup)
 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil
 1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1 to 2 ounces)

Put your stock or broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat, with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure that it is well seasoned.


Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt, and cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle. Stir in the grated tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and salt to taste and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and coat the rice, 5 to 10 minutes.


Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated and been absorbed by the rice. Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more stock and stirring when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often and when you do, stir vigorously. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy (al dente), in 20 to 25 minutes, it is done. Taste now and adjust seasoning.


Add another ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir in the additional finely diced tomatoes, basil and Parmesan and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it isn’t). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.