Lemon and Fennel Risotto

Making risotto is kind of like making your own pasta sauce or pizza – the sky’s the limit – all you need is a little imagination and you’re off! What’s most important with risotto is understanding the method – then you can relax and enjoy. Be sure to invite your guests into the kitchen, as it takes a bit of time. But what the heck – if everyone’s got a glass in their hands, it’s just social time! We made this last weekend to accompany cedar-planked salmon (coming soon to FAB!) for a little dinner party and it was a hit! Some nice steamed asparagus completed the plate…. Serves 8 as a side.

1 stick butter
1 medium white onion
1 large fennel bulb
3 cups Arborio rice
3 cups dry white wine (such as an un-oaked chardonnay)
5-6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 lemons, zest only
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp fennel fronds, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large pot, over medium heat.

When the butter stops foaming, add the onion and fennel, cover and sweat until quite soft (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally, being careful not to brown.

Add the rice and stir to ensure that it is coated with butter.

Pour in the wine, one cup at a time, stirring and waiting after each addition to ensure that it is absorbed.

Continue to add stock, one cup at a time, and similarly stir and wait to let the rice absorb the liquid each time.

After 4-5 cups of stock have been added, check the risotto for texture: it should be al dente (i.e., with a little bit of firmness). Continue to add liquid, at the same rate, if the risotto is still too firm (gritty or hard).

When the correct texture has been reached, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.

Stir in the fennel fronds and the salt and pepper to taste (or save the fennel fronds and sprinkle on top).

You can definitely taste the wine in this recipe, which I like. If you’re not as much of a wino, replace one cup with additional stock, or water.

Be sure not to stir risotto too frequently. The “old school” method is to stir constantly, using a “figure 8″ motion, but it can turn out mushy. Add the liquid, stir to incorporate, then leave it as long as you can (without allowing it to stick to the pan) before adding more liquid.

If you like to use citrus zest, consider investing in a rasp if you don’t already have one. The result is very delicate and you can avoid both pith and blanching.

This risotto would be equally nice with a roast chicken featuring rosemary or lavender and a little chardon, eh?


~ One of Seven


  1. mmmmm Risotto.

    a dish that the east and west FAB kitchens both love.

    I find the rice doesn’t go mushy as long as you are sure to use good quality rice.

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