There is something magical about the fact that several weeks into fall, we've still been receiving a bounty of beautiful, heirloom tomatoes from our farmshare with Honeybrook Organic Farm. With the coming of colder weather, our household has had a hankering for warm, comfort foods, something to cozy up to at the end of a long day. For me, risotto is just the trick to hit the spot: warm, hearty, filling and somewhat cheesy (as all comfort foods should be), it's hard to go wrong with creamy rice and roasted veggies for a perfect fall dinner.
Risotto is a bit of a process, and one you need to stick around for. You can't just pop it in the oven or leave it on the stove while you tend to other things. Trust me though, the constant stirring is beyond worth it. For this recipe you'll need:
4 cups of vegetable stock, heated through
1 cup of arborio rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup of fresh tomato sauce
Freshly ground salt and pepper
2 tablespoon of butter
About 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesean (optional for those who are vegan/lactose-intolerant)
About 2 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
The first step is to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your halved tomatoes (though you could always use larger tomatoes, chopped into one-inch pieces) on a baking tray face down. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-30 minutes or until soft, which will just about be the duration of the risotto-making process.
Thoroughly heat your stock in a small saucepan. It's important to start with warm vegetable stock, rather than refrigerated or even room temperature, as this will affect the way the rice cooks. In a larger pot, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add your chopped vegetables and garlic and stir constantly, so as to fry but not brown. For the correct risotto texture, the smaller you can chop your vegetables, the better. Traditionally, big chunks of onion or carrot have no place in the risotto experience.
After about 10 minutes of stirring (yes seriously), add your rice. Keep stirring and wait until you notice the rice going slightly translucent around the edges while staying white in the very center. This will happen relatively quickly and is more or less frying the rice. Add your salt, pepper and oregano, though this of course can be substituted for basil or another spice/herb of your choice. After this happens, about 2-3 minutes, add your tomato sauce. No one will judge you for using the jarred stuff (well), but as I feel in almost all scenarios: making and using your own will always win in the what-tastes-better department. Stir rapidly to incorporate.
At this point it's time to slowly add your stock and stir like a madwoman (or man, or person). Add a ladleful at a time, allowing each scoop to be fully absorbed by the rice before adding more liquid. This is the part that becomes time-consuming. Though the stock will disappear into the rice relatively quickly each time, it's important to keep stirring as to avoid sticking or burning.
Once you've used all your stock, have a taste: the rice should be al dente, or still retain a slight bite or chewiness, while the stock lends a creamy factor to the texture. That's exactly what risotto should be like. If you still find the rice to be slightly too crunchy, add more stock until you've achieved your desired texture. Stir in your butter. For our risotto, I waited to add cheese to only mine. If you're planning on adding cheese to the whole lot (thanks, Jamie), now's the perfect time to do so.
Serve topped with your roasted tomatoes and a bit more grated Parmesan and any fresh herbs that you plan to use. Crazy good.