Pesto Week – Thursday

Dear readers, welcome to pesto week here at A Glass of Milk.  I’m hoping your garden is bursting at the seams with basil, just like K’s.  Since she asked me what to do with all that green, we’re spending the week talking about my favorite herb, and my favorite sauce.  Which also means taking a trip down memory lane.  Enjoy the ride!

In four years of blogging, this post remains one of my favorites.  It’s about way more than pesto, it’s about my love of Queen Cupcake and the power of food to bring people together.

My husband and I were shocked, a year or so out of college, when we realized that none of our closest friends live anywhere near us.  We only half joke that if we become billionaires, we’re going to pay to move everyone onto our street.  It’s tough living far away from your best friends.  Instead of having them wander over when they smell meat hitting the grill in your backyard, you have to invite them, and clear schedules, and hope that traffic isn’t bad on the way over.  Worse yet, you have to buy a plane ticket to see them.  That’s what it takes to visit  Queen Cupcake these days.

But at least I can eat pesto risotto and pretend like we’re together at Risotteria.  We chanced upon it during the great birthday celebration of 09, and it’s since become a staple in QC’s life.  I’ve tried to recreate the dish before, to no great success.  What should be a creamy dish, oozing cheese out of every bite, instead becomes a soupy mess.  As a die-hard risotto fan, I refused to let this dish elude me.

One recent, rainy night, I nailed it.  I finally made a pesto risotto worthy of sharing.  With family.  And friends.  No matter how far away they are.  One bite of this and I was with Queen Cupcake and SCL at our cozy table in the West Village.  A girl can dream.

To make pesto risotto to feed 4, you will need:

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C Arborio rice
  • 1/2 C dry, white wine
  • 3 C chicken stock
  • 1 C peas, fresh (shelled), or frozen
  • 1 small container pesto (please do make your own if you have that kind of time)
  • 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan.  Add shallots, cooking till translucent, about 4 minutes.  Stir in rice, and toast, 1 minute.  Add wine, and cook till it reduces by half, about 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 C chicken broth, stirring occasionally, until almost all absorbed.  Continue adding broth by the 1/2 cupful until rice is cooked.  I just reach my wooden spoon in the great big pot and taste a grain or two when things are looking steamy.

When the rice is done, leave the heat on, stirring constantly until broth is almost all absorbed.  Though you’d want to leave some creaminess in a traditional risotto, you’re about to add pesto, which is largely made of olive oil.  Keeping your risotto too creamy here is going to leave you with risotto soup.  So stir, stir, stir, and when you don’t see any liquid on the bottom of the pot, remove it from heat, and throw in the peas and the pesto, and stir till combined.  Add cheeses and stir again.  Dish out into cute little bowls and enjoy.

*To make this dish vegetarian, just use veggie stock instead of chicken stock.


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