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There are some nights when dinner just doesn’t want to get made. I’m tired or the fridge seems to hold not one good thing despite the fact that it’s full.  And that is occasionally because I’ve told myself I need to use up leftovers even though I’m sick of them after the holidays. Lord. Waste not…

I had ham. I had cooked green beans. Tomatoes. Parmesan.  I thought salad; I thought soup. Sandwiches even.  When I thought risotto, though, the pot came out from the cupboard, I heated a quart of chicken stock, and I began to chop some onions. And that’s because risotto, like quiche or pasta, is the perfect home for the bits and bops you might have lying around in your fridge or on your countertop. And the really good thing? About 30 minutes later, dinner’s on the table. Faster than takeout.  Try this:

HAM AND PEA RISOTTO WITH LEMONY GREEN BEANS AND SAUTÉED TOMATOES

Have a few shrimp instead of the ham? Chop and throw them in at the end. A bit of grilled salmon? Same drill.  Cooked asparagus? Ditto. The leftover leftovers are good cold or hot for lunch the next day. When the risotto is nearly done, heat the beans and sauté the tomatoes and serve along side.  Basic risotto cooking instructions here.  While the consensus is you must stir risotto constantly until it’s done, I don’t. It still makes.  Serves 4.

For the risotto:

  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock or broth*
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup minced ham
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup Arbrorio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup frozen or fresh green peas
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Heat the chicken stock until very hot and place pot on a back burner.
  2. On a front burner, heat a 4-quart heavy pot over medium-low flame with butter or oil; add onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon each  salt and  pepper and a good pinch of the crushed red pepper. Cook until quite tender, but without browning, and stirring often. Add ham and heat through.
  3. Stir in rice and let cook for 2 minutes or so and pour in wine.  Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Raise the flame to about medium.
  4. Stir in a couple of ladles of hot broth. Cook at a nice simmer, stirring, until broth is nearly absorbed.
  5. Repeat #4 until nearly all broth is used and rice is nearly tender. Stir in peas with the last ladles of broth and cook another few minutes until rice and peas are quite tender and the risotto is very creamy. Remove pot from heat.
  6. Stir in cheese gently to avoid breaking the grains of rice. Taste and adjust seasonings. I like a little extra black pepper on top of my rice and it’s pretty, too.  Serve hot with the beans and tomatoes. (below)

*At altitude, you may need a little more broth to ensure tender rice; I sometimes add a half-cup of water to the broth to make sure I have plenty of liquid. At sea level, you may not need the entire quart of broth.

Cook’s Note: For really, really creamy risotto, add another 2 tablespoons of butter with the Parmesan at the end.

For the beans and tomatoes:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked green beans
  • 8 small tomatoes cut in half
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon

Heat oil over medium flame in a deep skillet and add beans; cook until nearly hot.  Add tomatoes.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Serve hot to the side of the risotto and drizzle the beans and tomatoes with lemon juice.

{printable recipe}

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A favorite risotto quote from the movie, “The Big Night”

Woman in Restaurant: Monsieur, is this what I ordered?

Secondo: Yes, that is the Risotto. It is a special recipe that my brother and I bring from Italy. It’s delicious, I promise.

Woman in Restaurant: It took so long, I thought you went back to Italy to get it.

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My favorite risotto:  Perfect seafood risotto at Trattoria di Jonny in Venice.  It’s worth the trip. If the weather’s fine, sit outside where everyone will walk by looking at your plate with obvious jealousy.  You must order risotto for two; there are no single orders as you just can’t cook risotto for one. 

Wine:  I liked a California Chardonnay here.

Dessert: It’s January; we’re not talking about dessert at my house.  But you go right ahead if you want.

Sing a new song and remember I’ll try to get a better photo of this!

Alyce