SPRING RISOTTO with Broad Bean Pesto

November 17th, 2022

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I love looking back at what I was cooking a year ago – and my smartphone has a knack for reminding me exactly what that was. True to form mid-November last year I was harvesting and cooking with broad beans and elderflowers. Admittedly, not at the same time, but they appear to be a strong theme in my cooking at this time of year.

This year, most likely due to being immersed in cookbook production in autumn, I didn’t plant any broad beans. This is the first time in many years I haven’t grown them and I do miss them in the garden. It would have only taken me about 30 minutes to direct sow them into the garden in a 2-meter patch but clearly, my mind was elsewhere. One positive is that I have a little more garden space this spring to plant out early dwarf beans (fingers crossed for fresh beans for Christmas), zucchini plants, and more of my favourite fennel and kohlrabi for salads.

As I don’t want to miss out on my broad bean fix I look out for them at the markets and veg shops. Of-course bags of frozen broad beans can also be found at the supermarket. However, I am quite particular about the size of my beans for cooking preferring them on the small to medium size as the podded beans are sweeter and less astringent.  It is funny how we become quite particular when we grow our own and can be selective with harvesting times. Needless to say, the lesson is learned and I will definitely be planting broad beans as soon as I have the garden space in autumn.

More Broad Bean recipes, plus some elderflower goodness from previous years:

Spring Risotto with Broad Bean Pesto

I like to use small to medium-sized broad beans as they are less bitter. If using frozen broad beans do slip off the tougher outer skins of the larger broad beans once blanched as the skins will make the pesto less vibrant in colour. A similar quantity of steamed broccoli could also be used in place of the broad beans. Making a good risotto takes a bit of patience, however the regular stirring is worth the effort as it massages the starch out of the rice for a silky texture. Aim for a creamy porridge-like consistency, adding extra stock or boiling water if needed to achieve this.
Servings 4
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.25 litres (5 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb or celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup 220g arborio rice
  • 1 small glass (150ml) dry white wine or extra stock
  • Knob of butter (25g)
  • Large handful (30g) finely grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to season

Broad Bean Pesto

  • 1 cup podded broad beans (or broccoli florets)
  • generous handful of fresh herbs - I used parsley, mint and the first leaves of basil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • juice of half a lemon, 2-3 tbsp
  • Large handful (30g) finely grated parmesan
  • about 100ml extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • First, make the pesto. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the broad beans (or broccoli) and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water for 1 minute. Drain again. Remove the tough outer skin from any larger beans - the smaller ones are fine to leave on. Place the beans into a food processor along with the herbs, garlic, lemon, and parmesan. Blend until combined. With the engine going drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth paste is achieved. Aim for a runny sauce. Adjust the taste if needed with extra lemon juice and seasoning. Pour into a small serving bowl.
  • Heat the stock in a large saucepan and keep it hot over a low heat.
  • In a heavy-based frying pan, warm the oil over a moderate heat. Add the onion and fennel and sauté gently for 5 minutes until softened.
  • Add the garlic and rice and stir for 1 minute until the rice is translucent.
  • Pour in the wine, stirring until the wine has evaporated. Now, begin to add the hot stock a ladle at a time, stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed then add another ladle of stock. Continue this rhythm until the stock is used up and the rice is al-dente with a porridge-like consistency.
  • Remove from the heat, stir through the butter and grated parmesan, and season to taste. Serve immediately with a generous dollop of broad bean pesto stirred through each plate of risotto.

Notes

In my new cookbook, The Homemade Table, I include a seasonal risotto recipe with different variations and additions to suit the season.

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My new cookbook The Homemade Table is now available at bookstores around Aotearoa NZ, plus order signed copies HERE

(Note: I am not sending to Australia or overseas at this time – you can order copies HERE).

Join the Conversation

  1. I absolutely loved this recipe Nicola – the broadbean pesto complements the risotto SO well, and was lovely to use up on other things over the following days. You are such a whizz with flavours! This will be a regular broadbean recipe for me 🙂

    1. Thanks Nicky, that is so great to hear. Broad beans work so well in the pesto and also brighten the heavier risotto for spring eating.
      Happy cooking 🙂 Nicola

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