Summer may be officially over but there’s still plenty of its produce kicking around. My grocery store is still bursting with stone fruit, summer squash, and tomatoes of every variety. So while I can feel my focus shifting towards the pumpkin spice of it all, I’m still keen to cook with the produce available. The simple solution to this is to take the summer’s best and wrap it up in a nice, cozy package. And that’s exactly what today’s Creamy Tomato Risotto is.
I have lamented the passing of summer for long enough. I am ready to embrace fall full-tilt. Fill my soup tureen, bring on the mulled wine, and slice me a slab of apple pie. Autumn and I are not easy friends. It’s true I do love September and October is not without its charms. I really do love Thanksgiving for obvious reasons. But by the time we hit Halloween, the shine is definitely off the apple.
When I was a kid, Halloween was notoriously awful. It seemed it always rained and/or was unbearably cold. And year after year, my mother would force me to wear a raincoat, or in some instances, a winter coat, which would totally kill whatever look I was going for that year. So it was always around Halloween that we would feel it – the promise of the horrible winter to come. So, you see, autumn and I have a complicated relationship.
But I’m trying not to think of the inevitable frigid downpour that awaits me on October 31st. And instead, live in this lovely late September moment. The days are still warm, the evenings comfortably cool. And eating mountains of pasta and a certain risotto are starting to sound like very good ideas again. The long and short of it is, I’m excited for the return of cozy. But you didn’t come here to hear my deeply compelling thoughts on the autumn season. I’m guessing you’re here for this Creamy Tomato Risotto, so let’s get into it.
I am a risotto stan. It is well-documented on this blog. You see, I find making risotto relaxing, meditative, and all other forms of chill. I appear to be in the minority, as the food community, and the Internet at large, want to color risotto as something “fussy”, “labor-intensive” or hard to get right. This is definitely not how I feel about it.
I think if you have the time to dedicate to making risotto, it can be a blissful experience. If, however, you’re trying to turn it into a speedy weeknight meal, then yes, you’re going to hate the process. Don’t set yourself up for that. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some music, and stare into a vortex of creamy rice. Trust me, your mind will wander to some surprising and pleasant places. But again, I am a risotto stan, so you may not agree with me. And if you don’t, nothing I say about this risotto being easy will ring true to you.
To make this Creamy Tomato Risotto we’re going to start, appropriately enough, with the tomatoes. Risotto is all about building layers of flavor in the pan. So we’re going to blister the cherry tomatoes in the pan we’re going to cook the risotto in. So once the pan and some olive oil are good and hot, add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and leave them alone. Flip them after about 5 minutes and repeat the process. Your tomatoes are done when the skin splits and they start to ooze. We are not making a marinara, so take your tomatoes off of the heat before they start to lose their shape. We don’t want to cook them down completely.
Once the tomatoes are blistered, we’re going to add a diced onion to the pan because what delicious risotto recipe doesn’t start with an onion? And once that onion is translucent, it’s in with the garlic. Now, we’re going to introduce the rice to the pan. We’re just looking to toast it at this point. It should crackle and give off a light nutty aroma. Then it’s in the with the wine and your stirring journey begins.
Now, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to stir risotto constantly. You can add a few ladles-worth of stock and leave it to simmer with the rice while you rifle through your music library for a proper risotto soundtrack. You just don’t want to become absorbed in a rom-com or break down and pop out to the store for the potato chips you wouldn’t let yourself buy earlier. The risotto does require supervision. You just don’t have to make maneuvering a spoon around the circumference of a pot over and over again your life’s sole purpose. You can take a break. This isn’t purgatory.
Once your rice is rich, creamy, and a little al dente, you’re going to finish it with a tiny drizzle of cream because you’re worth it. And finally, we’re going to reintroduce the blistered tomatoes to the skillet. A simple stir to combine is all that stands between you and dinner. Spoon this bad boy into bowls, top with stracciatella or whatever cheese speaks to you, and dive in.
And that’s really it. A little patience and minimal elbow grease are all that is required to make this Creamy Tomato Risotto. See? Risotto isn’t so scary. It does take some time to cook but think of it as aromatherapy you eventually get to eat. I mean, just that thought makes me feel less tense.
Creamy Tomato Risotto with Stracciatella Cheese
- A large deep skillet
- A large saucepan
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 680g (1 ½ lbs) cherry tomatoes I used San Marzano mini tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 1 tbsp tomato paste heaping
- ⅓ cup rosé wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup stracciatella cheese**
- Fresh basil leaves for sprinkling
- Daikon microgreens for sprinkling
- Pour the stock into a large saucepan and add the bay leaves and the parm rind, if using. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer.6 cups vegetable stock, 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind, 2 bay leaves
- Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and disperse them with your spoon to ensure they are in an even layer. Sprinkle them with salt, and leave them to cook for 5 minutes, undisturbed. Give them a toss and repeat this step. When the tomatoes' skin splits, transfer them to a bowl and set them aside.¼ cup olive oil, 680g (1 ½ lbs) cherry tomatoes
- Add the onion to the skillet along with a healthy pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute more. Add the rice and toast until it crackles and gives off a slightly nutty aroma.1 yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1½ cups arborio rice
- Stir in the tomato paste followed by the wine and honey. Once the wine is absorbed into the rice add 2 ladlesful of the simmer veggie stock to the pan. Stir the rice frequently until the stock is absorbed. Repeat until all the stock is integrated and the rice is tender but still firm in the center.1 tbsp tomato paste, ⅓ cup rosé wine, 1 tbsp honey
- Stir the cream into the risotto and fold in the reserved blistered tomatoes. Heat gently until the tomatoes come back up to temperature.¼ cup heavy cream
- Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with a few dollops of stracciatella, basil, and daikon microgreens. Serve immediately.1 cup stracciatella cheese**, Fresh basil leaves, Daikon microgreens