The Ultimate Dinner Party Vegetarian Main: Baked Risotto with White Beans, Herbs, and Lemon

published Sep 18, 2021
Baked Risotto with White Beans, Herbs, and Lemon Recipe

While most risottos are weighed down with cheese, this plant-based one is fresh and vibrant, with a crunchy panko topping.

Serves6 to 8

Prep35 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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creamy baked rissotto in cast iron pot
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner; Prop Styling: Paige Hicks

Risotto is easy to love. It’s impressively creamy, without actually being filled with rich dairy. It’s easy to customize with any number of flavors and mix-ins — and it feels so luxe and fancy! But there’s a reason why Top Chef contestants always get dinged when they serve it. If not eaten immediately, it cools and congeals, instantly losing its appeal.

Although I’ve never had to cook for Padma or Tom, I’m also not one to shy away from a challenge, so I set out to create a low-stress, hands-off risotto designed with dinner parties in mind. Baking it in the oven means you won’t be busy stirring when guests walk in the door, and you can serve it directly from the Dutch oven. Most importantly, it’s packed with fresh, vibrant flavor, thanks to lemon zest and juice and three different fresh herbs. For a little textural contrast, I added an herby, lemony panko topping that’s the perfect contrast to the creamy rice underneath.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner; Prop Styling: Paige Hicks

What Makes This Risotto the Ultimate Dinner Party Main?

  1. It’s vegan and vegetarian (and can easily be made gluten-free): Instead of limiting guests with dietary restrictions to sides or appetizers, why not make a main dish that everyone can enjoy? The addition of creamy, protein-packed white beans makes this risotto immensely satisfying — no cheese or meat required. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs in place of the panko.
  2. It uses pantry-friendly ingredients. While some dinner party recipes call for fancy, expensive, or hard-to-find ingredients you may only use a pinch of, this one starts with things you likely already have on hand. Plus, it intentionally uses up the full can of beans and entire box of broth. Sure, you’ll have leftover wine, but we figured you could find something to do with that.
  3. It can change with the seasons. This recipe can easily take on more veggies — simply sauté them with the leek before adding the rice. It’s an easy way to make a nod to the season: Try zucchini in the summer, butternut squash in the fall and winter, and mushrooms or asparagus in the spring. Jarred artichokes or roasted red peppers are good options year-round, and don’t need to be cooked first.
  4. It bakes in the oven (and requires just one pot!) After the risotto comes to a boil on the stovetop, you’ll transfer it to the oven and bake until the rice is tender (it might look brothy at this point, but the rice will continue to absorb the liquid as it sits). When it’s time to eat, top with the breadcrumb mixture and broil until crispy.

More Baked Risottos You’ll Love

Baked Risotto with White Beans, Herbs, and Lemon Recipe

While most risottos are weighed down with cheese, this plant-based one is fresh and vibrant, with a crunchy panko topping.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large leek

  • 4 large cloves


  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1/2 small bunch

    fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig

    fresh rosemary

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    cannellini beans

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 2 cups

    arborio rice

  • 1 cup

    dry white wine

  • 1 (32-ounce) box

    low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 cup


  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 3/4 cup

    panko bread crumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh parsley leaves


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above it, and heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Trim the bottom and dark green parts from 1 large leek, then cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into thirds, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 1/4 cups). Mince 4 large garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon). Finely grate the zest from 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon). Juice the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons. Strip the leaves from 1/2 small bunch fresh thyme and finely chop (about 1 tablespoon). Strip the leaves from 1 sprig fresh rosemary and finely chop (about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Drain and rinse 1 can cannellini beans.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 3 to 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, half the lemon zest, half the thyme leaves, half the rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Add 2 cups arborio rice. Cook, stirring, until each grain of rice is coated and beginning to toast lightly, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup dry white wine and simmer until the pot is almost dry, about 1 minute. Add the beans, 1 box low-sodium vegetable broth, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  5. Stir well, cover, and transfer to the oven. Bake until the rice is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes (the liquid will not be fully absorbed). Meanwhile, place 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add the remaining lemon zest, thyme, rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and several grinds black pepper. Finely chop 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, add half to the bread crumbs, and stir to combine.

  6. When the rice is ready, remove from the oven and heat the broiler to high. Add the lemon juice and remaining parsley into the rice and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Scatter the bread crumbs over top. Broil until the bread crumbs are toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Ingredient variation: If using unsalted vegetable stock, season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt when you add the stock.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.