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Peas, lemon brighten risotto; Weeknight-friendly dish is versatile and adaptable

By CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Published: May 22, 2024, 6:01am

Risotto has a fussy reputation, but it’s utterly weeknight-friendly and can be made start to finish in just over half an hour. It’s also versatile and adaptable, and a great way to use up ingredients you already have in your kitchen, including frozen vegetables.

In this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we transform a few basic ingredients into a risotto bursting with bright, bracing flavors.

To begin, we sauté onions in butter until soft, then add Arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are translucent at the edges. Hot broth is stirred into the rice a little at a time, until the rice is al dente and loose but not soupy. The rice is done when the grains are tender but retain a slight chew at the center; they should not be evenly soft throughout.

Off heat, a little more butter is added for richness, along with savory Parmesan cheese. Thawed frozen peas add a pop of color and sweetness, and a combination of lemon juice and zest brightens and balances the creaminess of the dish while adding a complex floral note. Chopped fresh parsley, basil or mint sprinkled on top just before serving offers vibrant color, flavor and fragrance; use whichever you have.

Lemon and Green Pea Risotto

Start to finish: 35 minutes. Servings: 4

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth OR vegetable broth

3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 cup Arborio rice

1½ cups frozen peas, thawed and patted dry

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve

Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR basil OR mint, to serve

In a medium saucepan over medium, bring the broth and 2 cups water, covered, to a simmer; reduce to low to keep warm.

In a large saucepan over medium, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are translucent at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the hot broth mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring often and briskly, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer.

Cook, adding ¼ cup of the broth at a time, until the rice is al dente and loose but not soupy, another 8 to 10 minutes. You may not need all of the broth. Off heat, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the peas, lemon zest and juice, and Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with parsley and additional Parmesan.