Chicken, basil pesto & zucchini risotto recipe

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Once you master the basics of risotto, the options are endless. To make it easier on busy weekdays, you can make the base ahead of time, then finish it off just before serving. If you like, you could top it with some of my crisp fried shallots.

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cooking Time: 35 Minutes


For the Risotto Base
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1⅓ cups risotto rice, such as arborio
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 3¼ cups hot Vegetable Broth
  • 1 zucchini, finely chopped
For the Risotto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Fresh Basil Pesto
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • ½ lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chives
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To Serve
  • Herb Salad or a Green Salad
  • 1 recipe quantity Crisp Fried Shallots (optional)
How to Make It
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the rice to coat it in the onion mixture. Pour in the wine and stir until it is absorbed by the rice.
  2. Add a small ladleful of the hot broth and stir until the broth is absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladleful. Add the zucchini, then continue adding ladlefuls of the broth, stirring so the rice cooks evenly, until you have used half of the broth. This should take about 10 minutes. This is the risotto base and it can be left at this stage, if more convenient, and the dish finished later. If you want to do this, transfer the rice to a container that has a lid and let cool completely, uncovered. When cool, cover and chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  3. To cook the chicken, heat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the pan and fry 3 minutes on each side to color, then transfer the pan to the oven and cook 15 minutes until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the chicken is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven, cover and let rest 2 to 3 minutes, then slice into strips.
  4. To finish the risotto, reheat the reserved broth. Return the risotto base to the large pan over medium-low heat. Continue to add the broth a ladleful at a time about 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender but still retains some bite.
  5. Stir the pesto and chicken into the rice, then stir in the cream, parmesan and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the chives and some extra parmesan, and serve with salad and crisp shallots, if you like.

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