Wishing you a very happy summer solstice! Today is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and the solstice been celebrated in the UK for centuries. Since it’s now officially midsummer, we had better celebrate!
We’ve been having a mini-heatwave here. London has hit temperatures of 35°c, and my city around 30°c – that’s unprecedented in such an early summer month as June. Let me paint the scene; people flocking in droves to the beaches, men embracing the chance to shed their shirts, and yet everyone complaining about the heat about twenty times a day, saying how the weather is “awful” – we’re a complicated bunch!
I was sensible and stayed inside – all the sun had made want to create a dish that wasn’t heavy, but flavoursome and colourful. I admit, cooking in the heat without a breeze or shade is a nightmare, but this dish is completely worth it. It’s fresh, light, bright, ever so tasty, and sings of summer.
Pesto and risotto are two of the greatest foods to come from Italy (arguably!) but we so rarely see them put together. The result is a deliciously vibrant green rice with a creamy sauce, strongly flavoured with garlic and the distinctive taste of arborio rice itself. The lemon, basil, and cheese from the pesto each lend their own distinctive note and fresh pin nuts across the top complete the spoonful with a crunch. Combined, it’s a marriage made in heaven.
I served my risotto with thinly sliced grilled focaccia bread with olive oil, bursts of sweet grilled cherry tomatoes, extra pesto and sautéed diced mushrooms. For me, this was the perfect balance between crispy, fresh, hearty, tasty, and zingy.
Spinach Pesto Risotto with Mozzarella
- 125g Spinach, washed
- 4 cloves of Garlic
- 4 large Basil leaves
- 100ml Olive Oil
- 50g Pine Nuts
- 100g Mozzarella
- Squeeze of lemon
- Pink Salt
- 300g Risotto rice / Arborio rice
- Green half of a leek, washed
- Olive Oil
- First, make the pesto. Take spinach (washed), crushed garlic, basil, and olive oil and combine in a blender or a mortar and pestle. You may need to add more olive oil bit by bit to achieve the consistency you need.
- Season the pesto with salt, fresh pine nuts, and a dash of lemon. Crumble mozzarella and stir it through – alternatively, leave out the cheese for a vegan dish. Set aside now until risotto is cooked.
- In a large saucepan, heat the flame until medium and add the olive oil. Dice the leek and add it to the oil, stirring frequently until cooked but not coloured.
- Now add the risotto rice to the pan and mix the leek into the rice, until all the rice has been coated in oil.
- Add a little water or stock and continue to cook the rice, stirring as much as you can until the water has been absorbed. Continue this, adding more and more water and stirring constantly until risotto is getting cooked and a creamy sauce is developing.
- When the risotto rice is almost cooked, add the pesto sauce to the risotto pan, saving a little for garnishing. Stir it through so the risotto takes on the colour. Cook the risotto for a further 4 minutes or so, continuing to stir, until the rice is tender.
- Dish up into bowls and garnish with leftover pesto, toasted pine nuts, crumbed cheese, sautéed mushrooms, or grilled tomatoes to your taste.
Serve with a side of grilled bread.