Tomato & Rosemary Risotto with Meatballs

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Risotto always makes for a nice, comforting meal during the week. Yes, it takes a bit of time and requires a bit of stove-side attention, but I find the constant stirring to be rather relaxing, especially after a busy day at work when the time spent doing something mindless and repetitive can be rather therapeutic.

But perhaps we all don’t have this luxury of time to quietly meditate over the stove, or – more likely – some of us just don’t have the darn patience to stir endlessly for 20 minutes or so.

A friend recently told me that she tried making risotto the traditional way once and was stunned by the effort required. Since then, she has resorted to recipes for baked risotto, claiming that the rice is still as creamy as though it were made on the stove.

I had always thought that making risotto in the oven, and essentially cooking it like you would rice, would make the rice go soft and claggy. And I’m rather fussy about my risotto – it has to be creamy and soft and without a hint of bite, but not so soft that it can be served in a nursing home for the elderly.

Having recently purchased Rachel Allen’s new book, Easy Meals, I wanted to try her recipe for Tomato & Rosemary Risotto with Meatballs. I had all of the ingredients at home except for the minced beef, and it looked like a nice and simple dish for the middle of the week. It was only when I was mid-way cooking did I realise that the risotto was going to be baked in the oven. I considered ignoring Rachel’s instructions and making it the traditional way, but faced with the possibility of getting dinner on the table sooner, I continued to follow her recipe.

The risotto starts off first on the stove whereby you sauté some onions and garlic as per normal, then add the aborio rice, followed by some white wine and a can of tinned tomatoes. The rice is partially cooked in all of this liquid, to which you then add all of the stock and some seasoning, pop a lid on the pan and put everything into the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Putting the pan of risotto into the oven felt like a revelation. Suddenly my hands were free to do other things, like cook the meatballs and set the table.

And the result? The risotto was not as claggy as I had expected, though it was certainly softer than if it had been cooked the traditional way. The addition of grated parmesan at the end added some creaminess to the risotto but, overall, I don’t think the dish suffered for having been baked in the oven. Having now tasted a baked risotto, it would obviously be worthwhile to employ this method if you have guests over. The last time we had visitors and I had made risotto, I was stuck in the kitchen for about half an hour just amusing myself with some stirring while everyone else was catching up on the latest gossip in the next room. In such instances, the constant stirring is not at all therapeutic but just plainly unfair – to the cook and to the guests.

I think this risotto would be great served on its own, though the meatballs hardly take any time to prepare and cook. You could also substitute the rosemary for another herb such as basil or parsley, or indeed use all three. In fact, you could just replace the fresh rosemary with a good sprinkle of dried Italian herbs and make this a true store-cupboard dish.

19 Comments

  1. At Anna's Kitchen Table 25 September 2011

    I’ve never baked a risotto either. I’m glad it was worthwhile. I really like the sound of this recipe!

    Reply
    • eat little bird 25 September 2011

      Hi Anna! It’s a pretty nice recipe. I really like the tomato risotto and will definitely be making it again!

      Reply
  2. Liz Headon 25 September 2011

    I’ve done baked rice dishes, though not precisely a risotto, and they have usually been good. Unless you are a purist (and I’m not !) I think rice dishes are more forgiving than their reputation makes them out to be. The other day I was making a risotto, intending to do it by the traditional method, and noticed just too late that I was tipping long grain rice instead of “proper” risotto rice into the pan. So, instead of adding the stock a little at a time and stirring, I added it all at once, put a lid over the pan, and cooked it like a pilaff. It wasn’t risotto but it was still delicious !

    Oh, and I love the cheese grater – takes me right back to my childhood !

    Reply
    • eat little bird 25 September 2011

      I guess it’s true that most accidents in the kitchen can turn out to be better than the original dish! I actually thought a baked risotto would turn out to be a bit like a pilaf in texture, but thankfully it still turned out to be fairly close to a normal risotto!

      Oh I’m glad you noticed the grater – I absolutely love it! It’s an oldie but definitely a goodie 🙂

      Reply
  3. Caroline 25 September 2011

    Never done the oven method…is it right to admit, I am skeptical or rather scared to do so!!! Its not quite risotto weather here but I would love to try this method when the time comes. It also comes across as a great meal for kids, which is always a considerable advantage in my kitchen. I love your photos Thanh as always…and that antique looking grater is something else! Gorgeous!

    Reply
    • eat little bird 25 September 2011

      Wow, sounds like quite a few of us have never tried a baked risotto! It would definitely be great for kids if you need to get food on the table quicker. I think this particular recipe has family-friendly written all over it, but that’s Rachel Allen for you!

      Reply
      • Caroline 26 September 2011

        Yeah might just do it sometime this week, I think. expecially if all the prep can be done in advance by the looks of it. I prefer anything finished off in the oven to stove top cooking usually. But like you I find a risotto rather soothing to make. I would never attempt it for a dinner party though! Will let you know how it turns out Thanh 😉

        Reply
  4. Terry 25 September 2011

    well you’ve got me thinking of giving it a go too! never done it before, but hey you know what they say about change…..sooo

    Reply
    • eat little bird 25 September 2011

      Hi Terry! Oooh, would it be sacrilegious to bake a risotto in Italy??? I’m not sure if the Italian mamas would approve so maybe don’t tell them 😉

      Reply
  5. Julia Levy 26 September 2011

    Bill Granger also bakes risottos in the oven, specifically a courgette and tuna number that delights me. Delia a mushroom one too. I love cooking risottos in the oven and a bit of vigorious stiring at the end to give a creamy texture and they’re just wonderful.

    I’m all for a bit of stove side stirring but desperately never have the time. I love oven baking them and feel no lack of love from them.

    Reply
    • eat little bird 26 September 2011

      Julia, I’ve always been skeptical of baked risottos but this one has sort of changed my mind. The result is not as elegant as a risotto cooked the traditional way, but it still tasted great. The courgette and tuna risotto sounds delicious – I will have to look up my Bill Granger books pronto!

      Reply
  6. Jo 26 September 2011

    Yup, count me in the “never baked” a risotto camp too! I love the stir but hate the heat of hovering over a hot pan all that time – not cool to sit down to tea with a sweat on! But I too was sceptical of the texture, although I very much have my eye on the beetroot one RA did in her Entertaining book (methinks – I caught it on the tv not in the book) a it’s pink! But this looks lovely Thanh – rather remniscent of the bolognaise one I have my eye on in Nigella Kitchen 🙂

    Reply
    • eat little bird 26 September 2011

      Oh this recipe also reminded me of the bolognaise one in Kitchen!! I’m not a big fan of minced meat, though, so I prefer little meatballs to having bits of meat throughout the risotto. The texture of a baked risotto is definitely not the same, but it’s not as bad as you might think … 😉

      Reply
  7. Reem | Simply Reem 27 September 2011

    Wow this recipe sounds interesting, I never had baked risotto before…
    Will sure try this soon.
    P.S I really like your blog Thanh and want to pass on this award to you.
    You can have it here my dear http://www.simplyreem.com/from-my-kitchen/?p=537
    I hope you”ll enjoy it. Also I don’t know why my post was not showing your link earlier but I updated it….

    Reply
    • eat little bird 27 September 2011

      Reem – thank you so much for this wonderful award!!! What a lovely honour!! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Charlise 8 April 2012

    Cannot wait to try this! What a wonderful idea 😉

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 8 April 2012

      Lovely to see you here, Charlise! This recipe is from the book I recommended to you this afternoon. This recipe is quite good – I’ve made the risotto quite a few times, with and without the meatballs. But I know George likes meatballs so you might want to try with 🙂

      Reply
  9. Jen 6 November 2013

    Yum, yum, yum! Just make this for dinner and it was delicious. Like everyone else, my first baked risotto and it won’t be my last! I loved it. A certain someone drank all the white wine we had left in the house so I used the only thing we had lying around which was green, ginger wine but it was still very tasty.

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 7 November 2013

      I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this recipe! I also love this tomato risotto and frequently make it when I’m stuck for ideas on what to cook as I normally always have all of the ingredients to hand. I often buy little bottles of cheap white wine to use for cooking but my husband sometimes can’t keep his hands off them! So I also make risotto with vermouth in place of white wine, and even marsala, which lend a subtle difference. Great to know that ginger wine works too!

      Reply

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