Easy & delicious risotto recipe for pesto risotto. Plus a recipe for fresh homemade pesto! This amazing dish takes just minutes to make and tastes gourmet.
I’ve been thinking of delicious and simple meals that I can prepare easily with what I ordinarily have on hand, but also be able to include them with our regular tried and true meals. So far, I’ve had three successes and one failure. My favorite of the three successes is a pesto risotto!
I’ll admit, my risotto skills are lacking. Gordon Ramsey made risotto seem easy on Hell’s Kitchen, and my step-mom makes an amazing risotto too. Unfortunately, my personal experiences have been completely hit and miss. My thought process when I came up with pesto risotto went something like this:
I’m not that great at risotto, but pesto risotto is delicious. Maybe if I combine the two it’ll taste kinda good.
As it turns out, this dish was on par with the amazing pesto risotto my step-mom had created once. It makes a great side dish to any meat and you can also tailor the recipe a bit depending on your family’s tastes.
Pesto Risotto Recipe
The great thing about this risotto recipe is that it’s so easy to make. It’s also worth your while because it’s:
- Delicious! Pesto is a powerhouse of flavor with the fresh bright green herbs and the warm earthiness of the extra virgin olive oil and pine nuts. YUM!
- Healthy. Fresh herbs are good for our bodies in so many ways. Then you’ve got the EVOO and pine nuts, which are so nourishing with good fats.
- Vegetarian and Vegan friendly. This recipe is easily made vegetarian or vegan by switching out the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and omitting the butter and parmesan cheese (but it’s SO good with the parmesan!). You can always sub dairy-free butter and parmesan, but I haven’t tried those substitutions.
What are the ingredients for Pesto Risotto
- Onion, finely chopped (optional)
- Arborio rice
- Chicken stock
- Prepared pesto (homemade or pre-prepared if short on time)
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Is risotto gluten-free?
Yes! Risotto is a perfect side dish for those who eat gluten-free!
How do you add flavor to risotto?
Pesto is perfect for risotto because it easily adds such a vibrant flavor that happens to go great with mains like whole roasted chicken! Other risotto recipes call for white wine, butter, lemon juice, and parmesan, but I am biased to this pesto risotto recipe! Try it, and I think you’ll agree!
Do I make homemade pesto or use pre-made pesto for pesto risotto?
I’m including a recipe if you choose to make your own; however, if you’re in a pinch of time, buying it pre-made is okay too. If needed, you can tweak it a bit to help fine-tune this risotto recipe, should you like more basil or olive oil in your pesto. Most store-bought versions don’t contain anything fake but always read the labels.
Costco offers 22oz for a decent price and it will last WAY beyond this risotto and the rest of Arborio rice. Consider a chicken pesto Panini, a cheesesteak with provolone and pesto, or even atop your favorite pasta if you need other avenues to enjoy the goodness (or just invite me over for dinner and I’ll gladly take it off your hands)!
How to Make Pesto Risotto from Scratch
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add onion and cook until soft and translucent.
- Raise heat to medium and add rice, stirring.
- Stir in one cup of chicken stock. When the stock is absorbed, stir in another 2 cups.
- Begin adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time, along with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Stir continuously.
- Remove the risotto from the heat when it is almost, but not quite done.
- Fold in 1 tablespoon of butter, then gently fold in the Parmesan cheese. Salt & pepper to taste!
Enjoy this pesto risotto!
What are the ingredients for perfect pesto (basil pesto)?
- Fresh Basil leaves
- Pine nuts
- Garlic cloves, peeled
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
How do you make pesto from scratch?
- Combine the first four ingredients in a food processor into a rough paste.
- With the machine running, slowly add the oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- If the sauce seems dry (it should be a thick paste), add a bit more oil.
Is pesto expensive?
It can sometimes be expensive for one big reason and one little reason. The little reason is Parmesan cheese. Real Parmesan cheese can sometimes be expensive. But if you buy it in a brick and grate it when you need it for your recipe, it lasts for a long time. A little bit goes a long way in our house.
The bigger reason pesto is expensive is the pine nuts. Substitutions can be made for the nuts – almonds, walnuts, even cashew – but the taste will be slightly different in the end.
More Easy Sides
- 5 Minute Greek Couscous
- Ridiculously Easy Potato Skins
- Coconut Rice
- Simple Autumn Rice Pilaf
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
Loving LeftoversLove meal planning but hate leftovers? Download my free eBook Loving Leftovers and learn how to save money by turning leftovers into recipes your family will love!
Easy Pesto Risotto
Easy and delicious risotto recipe for pesto risotto. This amazing dish takes just minutes to make and tastes gourmet.
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings (as a side dish) 1x
- Category: Sides
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 6–8 cups chicken stock
- 1/4–1/2 cup prepared pesto (see recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
- salt and pepper, to taste
Homemade Pesto Ingredients
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Make the homemade pesto by combining the first four ingredients in a food processor until they have made a rough paste. With the machine running, slowly add the oil. Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems dry (it should be a thick paste), add a bit more oil.
- In a large heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on low.
- Add onion and cook until soft and translucent.
- Raise heat to medium and add rice, stirring** until the rice looks chalky and you can see a white dot in the center of the grains (3-5 minutes).
- Stir** in one cup of chicken stock. When the stock is absorbed, stir** in another cup. Repeat this for the third cup of stock as well.
- Begin adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time, along with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Stir** continuously until the stock is absorbed. Keep repeating this process and start tasting the risotto. The rice should be tender yet slightly firm to the bite – taking care to not overcook the rice. Adjust more or less pesto with each tasting, to your preferences.
- Remove the risotto from the heat when it is almost, but not quite done.
- Fold in 1 tablespoon of butter, then gently fold in the Parmesan cheese.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Enjoy this pesto risotto!
* Real Parmesan cheese is required. If you do not have real Parmesan (whether already shredded or in a wedge), them simply omit. If the price of Parmesan is offensive (approximately $4 for a wedge at Target), I assure you that not only is it worth the investment, but a little bit goes a long way. One wedge of Parmesan lasts us a couple months, and this includes recipes and snacking. Whatever you decide, please do not use the powdered parmesan cheese that comes in a green canister, often found in the spaghetti isle.
** Most recipes say to stir using long strokes. I always stir making small circles all over the pan. I can’t say for sure that either method works better than the other, but the key is to stir often, if not continuously.
Do you enjoy pesto risotto? If so, I’d love it if you’d share it in the comment section!