• Tomato And Basil Risotto With And Without James

    by  •  • Featured, Recipes

    That glass is filled with wine, not urine. Needs to be pointed out.

    This began as an experiment based on a recipe I saw on a cooking magazine site that insisted you could make risotto without stirring. I was extremely dubious.

    And you know what?

    You can’t. Not in a million years.

    Which isn’t to say what you end up with isn’t delicious… it’s just not risotto. You end up with something closer to… I don’t know… A cheesy paella? A savoury rice pudding?

    You get the idea. The flavour combo was good enough that we used it as a base for a ‘proper’ risotto a few weeks later. (I saw “we” but James is actually excellent at risotto so he did it. I merely barked an ingredient list at him and drank the rest of the wine.)

    We’ll cover the ‘no-stir’ version and then at the end I’ll give you the “James” or proper version.


    • 1 can plum tomatoes. Not chopped, dammit.
    • A knob of butter and some olive oil. In my mind this is one ingredient. My fat, fat mind.
    • 400 grams risotto rice.
    • 75 grams cream cheese. This is the weird bit that turns it into cheesy paella. It’s not in the proper version.
    • 600 ml hot vegetable stock. Once again, I’m using Bouillon.
    • 50 grams Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated. From a block. That you grate yourself.
    • 1 large brown onion. Diced.
    • 1 tsp of dried wild thyme.
    • Fresh basil leaves. Torn and stirred through at the very end.


    1. cook the onion and wild thyme in the oil and butter over a low heat for about nine minutes.

    2. Tip in the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for about a minute. Then add the wine, stirring until it bubbles away and gets absorbed.

    3.  Pour in the hot stock and tomatoes, stirring a bit to break them up but not enough to damage the rice. (By the way, that’s a risotto spoon I got in Milan. They’re really helpful.) Put the lid on, turn the heat down low and let it bubble away for twenty minutes. You are basically turning it into paella.

    4. Make sure the cheese is ready. I know, right? Weeeiird.

    5. After twenty minutes, remove the lid and stir the cheese into the rice. (So much for ‘no stir’ but go with it. It’s actually not that bad in the end.) You may need to turn the heat up a bit and stir to evaporate off the last of the liquid.

    6. At the last moment, stir through the basil leaves and then serve in bowls.


    The James Version

    Whilst the above recipe is delicious -and definitely something you should try- if you’re in the mood for proper risotto the steps are basically the same with the following addenda.

    • No cream cheese. Just use the same amount of Parmesan again.
    • Throw the tomatoes in at the same time as the wine. (Actually about twenty seconds after.)
    • Then just add ladles of hot stock and stir continuously for about twenty minutes as you would a normal risotto.
    • Stir the Parmesan through at the end like a normal risotto.

    Done. Either way an awesome and cheap meal.

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