My summer without tomatoes has been sad, but it’s also inspired new recipes as I tackled the culinary challenge of an elimination diet. I adore the classic Caprese flavor profile and craved it deeply, so I started experimenting with the savory side of strawberries. I just wanted something red to go with the green. This oven-baked risotto is one of the best dishes to come out of my nightshade-free diet. The fresh basil and strawberries speak of the garden’s harvest. This is an elegant dish, worthy of entertaining. It serves 6-8.
Pesto Risotto with Balsamic Strawberries
2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 c arborio rice
1/3 c white wine
6 c vegetable broth
1 1/2 c sliced strawberries
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
1/4 c parmesan cheese
2 T butter
squirt of fresh lemon
1/2 c pesto
optional toasted pine nuts and basil for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place a dutch oven* over a medium flame and heat olive oil. Add onions. Season with sea salt and pepper and saute for about 4 minutes, until they become soft and translucent. Stir often to avoid browning. Add garlic and saute for another minute, until you can just smell it. Add the rice and stir for about 3 minutes, until rice is toasty. Add wine. Stir. Add 5 1/2 cups of broth and continue stirring for another minute.
2. Place the lid on your dutch oven and put it in the oven for 18 minutes. No peeking. In the meantime, slice the strawberries and mascerate them in vinegar with a hint of sea salt as well. If using pine nuts, toast them now and set aside.
3. Take risotto out of the oven and place it over a medium flame. Remove the lid. Stir in the remaining broth, butter and cheese. Stir and cook another 3-5 minutes, until risotto is cooked through and has reached the desired creaminess. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice and pesto. Stir until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve immediately, spooning strawberries as a garnish and sprinkling with pine nuts and basil if you have them. Enjoy!
* You don’t need a dutch oven for this recipe; you can also make it stove top. To do that, heat your broth until simmering. Add it ladle by ladle to the rice, stirring and waiting for the rice to absorb the broth before adding more. Adjust your temperature so that this will take 22 minutes. If you try to bake this without a dutch oven, the heat will not distribute properly and you probably won’t be happy with the results.