This wholesome, rustic and seriously tasty vegetarian risotto is some mighty fine comfort food. It's creamy, yet light, and nutritious-to-boot - each bowl is packed with veggies and provides a source of plant protein. Naturally gluten-free!
When you’re after a meal that’s equally delicious as it is comforting, you’ll be hard pressed to beat risotto – and this vegetarian-friendly mushroom and kale recipe is a great addition to your kitchen repertoire. Not only is it hearty and delicious (like any good risotto should be!), but it’s nutritionally considered too.
Vegetable-wise, each bowlful provides a few servings. While risotto isn’t celebrated for its protein content, this recipe incorporates easy-to-use canned white beans for a protein boost. Finally, while butter and parmesan are crucial ingredients in any good risotto, this dish uses them, but in a lighter way.
Arborio rice. A high starch and short-grain rice variety. Arborio lends to a creamy, almost pudding-like, consistency (but still with some chew to the grain) when cooked risotto-style.
Onions and garlic. Two aromatic superstars that add foundational flavour.
Mushrooms. Go for a mix of portobello and white button, and slice and chop into different sizes for a bit of texture.
Herbs. Fresh rosemary and oregano are unbeatable, but feel free sub in dried herbs. The general ratio is one tablespoon fresh to one teaspoon of dried.
Vegetable stock. You can swap this out for chicken stock, but it’ll no longer be vegetarian-friendly.
Cavolo nero aka Italian or Tuscan kale. This veg offers incredible nutrient bang-for-buck. Make sure to tear the leaves off the thick woody stem. You can swap out for another dark leafy green that cooks speedy, like spinach.
Canned white beans. Like cannellini or butter beans. A 400g can yields about 1 ½ cups, so a little over ⅓ cup per serve. If you want to oomph the protein further, simply add another can.
Parmesan cheese and butter. To amplify the creaminess and make it taste that much better. You could sub in a vegan-friendly butter or cheese, or just skip it altogether.
Salt and pepper. Season to taste, as always.
Do not pre-wash your rice, I repeat. Washing arborio removes much of the starch needed for that creamy dreamy consistency.
Briefly sauté the rice. This creates a protective layer round the grain, preventing the immediate release of starches (and the risk of a clumpy texture – boo!)
Warm the stock. Really important so your cooking time doesn’t drag out. Warmed stock means quicker absorption and a steadier temperature. I like to heat this in a small pot next to the risotto pan and add in ladle-by-ladle.
Keep a mindful eye on the stove as you stir, stir, stir. Perhaps the most intimidating part of risotto is that it’s not the kind of dish you can turn your back on and leave. A little love is needed to stir the rice with broth until cooked – this doesn’t need to be constant, but it does need to be frequently. Pour yourself a glass of wine (or kombucha) and enjoy the mindful activity.
Overestimate, don’t under estimate your stock. Risotto recipes typically call for a rice to stock ratio of 3:1. I find the addition of kale to this dish requires more as it soaks stock up. And, generally, things like pan size and type of stove top can all impact the rate at which stock is absorbed and evaporated. Here I’ve recommend a 4:1 ratio, to be on the safe size – I tend to use all of it.
How to tell when your rice is done? Taste it. The rice grain should be soft, but with a slight pleasant bite – think tender and creamy.
Serve right away for the ideal consistency. This recipe plates up three larger portions or four smaller serves.
It’s yummy served standalone, but could also work as a side. It would be great topped with grilled chook or a wedge of hot-smoked salmon (keeping in mind it’ll no longer be vegetarian-friendly).
400gmixed mushrooms (portobello and white button),sliced or diced
1brown onion,finely diced
2cloves ofgarlic,very finely chopped
1Tbspfresh rosemary needles
1Tbspfresh thyme leaves
1 litrevegetable stock
1400gcanned white beans(cannellini or butter beans)
A small bunch ofcavolo nero/Italian kale (around two leaves per person)
¼cupparmesan cheese, grated(or more to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
Tear kale leaves off woody stem and shred leaves. Keep leaves aside and discard stem.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large deep fry-pan. Sauté mushrooms over a medium heat for 8 minutes or until softened and shrunken. Remove mushrooms from the pan and keep aside.
In the same pan add the second measure of olive oil, and sauté onions and garlic for five minutes over a medium-low heat, or until the onion has softened.
Finely chop herbs. Add rice and herbs to the pan and sauté for a minute to just so ever lightly toast the rice (how good does it smell right now?!).
Add ½ cup of stock, stirring frequently until the stock absorbs. Continue to add the stock in increments, ½ cup at a time, and stir until absorbed before adding more. The heat should be a medium simmer.
When the risotto is nearly cooked, add the kale (this was around the 20 minute mark for me). Let the kale wilt – it will soak up stock, so add splash more. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is al-dente – tender to the bite, but not mushy. You might need all the stock, or you may have some leftover (the amount used can be impacted by pan size, types of stove (electrical, gas), heat distribution etc.) It's best to have more, not less, handy so you can cook your rice to perfection.Tip: if it feels like your cooking time is dragging out, the heat might be too low!
Drain beans and rinse. Drain and discard any water that has been released from the mushrooms.
Mix into risotto the mushrooms, beans, butter and parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.