You'll never catch us saying traditionally prepared risotto is hard, but we'll certainly be the first to admit it does require some attention. But if you think your cooking routine doesn't leave much room for this technique-based dish, don't write it off just yet!
In fact, what if I told you creamy, dreamy restaurant-style risotto with a fraction the effort is still within your reach? Yes! You can have all that without the constant stirring or even the need for a special tool. I'm talking about baked risotto!
Baked risotto, with hardly any stirring at all, delivers a pot of tender rice in a rich and savory sauce. Stir in sweet and nutty basil pesto and a handful of fresh green peas before topping with pancetta and Parmesan, and you can easily add this springy risotto to your weeknight meal plan — no fuss required.
Why You Should Bake Risotto in the Oven
To the uninitiated, risotto's reputation is steeped in mystery and difficulty. It may not be immediately obvious how a pot of rice transforms into a thick, creamy, and spoonable affair. Risotto requires time, attention, and both eyes on the stove — all of which are in short supply for most of us on a weeknight.
Baked risotto offers an alternative method when warm and comforting rice is what you want. Start on the stovetop, as you do with all risottos, sautéing onion and toasting the rice. But this is where the methods diverge. Pour in most (but not all!) of the broth, cover, and bake. While in the oven, the rice absorbs the broth, softening to almost al dente.
Then you pull the rice from the oven and add the rest of the broth, Parmesan, and pesto. You only have to stir for just three minutes on the stovetop, which knocks the starches from the rice and thickens the warm broth.
Dutch Oven Is Best for Risotto Baking
Oven-baked risotto requires a Dutch oven for fluid movement between stovetop and oven. Dutch ovens have a heavy bottom that delivers even, constant heat. Paired with a tight-fitting top, the lid locks in the heat, ensuring that the top layer of risotto rice bakes at the same rate as the bottom.
The Right Rice for Risotto
Arborio or carnaroli rice are medium-grain rice varieties traditionally used for risotto. When it comes to rice and starches, there are two types: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is a straight chain, while amylopectin is branched like a tree.
Risotto-friendly rice has a high proportion of amylopectin. When liquid is added, the liquid finds its way between the branches, loosening them, and breaking them off. Suspended in the broth, the baby branches thicken the sauce and create its creamy consistency. Traditional wisdom says that constant stirring aids in the breaking of branches, but a similar result can also be accomplished with vigorous and constant stirring at the end of cooking.
Key Steps for Oven-Baked Risotto
- Crisp pancetta. Pancetta is a cured pork similar to bacon, but unlike bacon, pancetta is unsmoked. Pancetta is relatively easy to find in your grocer's deli department, and often it is already pre-chopped in the package. Crisp the pancetta as you would bacon, starting in a cold pan and slowly coaxing the fat from the porky crumbles. Once crisp, remove the crumbles to a plate until ready to serve.
- Sauté the onion and rice and deglaze. Sauté the onion and rice in the pancetta drippings. Make sure to coat each grain of rice in the fat, toasting them slightly to develop gloriously nutty and toasted flavors. Deglaze with white wine by scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Pour in chicken broth, cover, and bake. Next, pour in the chicken broth; this liquid is what will make the rice swell and become tender. Cover with the tight-fitting lid to trap the liquid and steam and create a moist environment for the risotto to cook while making sure that the top layer of the risotto rice bakes at the same rate as the bottom layer.
- Stir in more broth, Parmesan, and butter. When you remove the risotto from the oven, the grains of rice should be tender and plump, but will not appear creamy, as you would expect from a risotto. Stir in the remaining broth, Parmesan, and butter. Since the rice has already absorbed all of its cooking liquid, these final ingredients are simply added to knock starch off of the rice and give it the characteristically thick, creamy texture of risotto.
Serving Oven-Baked Risotto
Just before serving, stir in a few spoonfuls of basil pesto and peas. If you use frozen peas, there is no need to thaw them; the residual heat of the risotto will do the job quickly. The rice should be creamy and thick (although if you prefer a looser consistency, simply add up to 1/2 cup more broth). Spoon the risotto into dishes and sprinkle with the crisped pancetta and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Try another baked risotto: Baked Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions
How To Make Easy Oven-Baked Risotto
What You Need
finely chopped pancetta or bacon
thinly sliced onion
arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice (1 pound)
dry white wine
5 1/2 cups
low-sodium chicken broth, warmed, divided
finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 cups
fresh or frozen peas
- 1/3 cup
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cups and spoons
3- to 4-quart Dutch oven
Rasp grater, such as Microplane
Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Cook pancetta until crisp. Place the pancetta in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat and cook until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
Sauté onion and rice. Add the onion to the pancetta drippings and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir until each grain of rice is coated in the pancetta drippings and begins to toast lightly, 1 to 2 minutes.
Deglaze with wine and pour in chicken broth. Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits from cooking the pancetta and onion and stir constantly until no liquid remains, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups of the broth, stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
Bake the risotto covered for about 15 minutes. Cover and bake until the rice is just slightly underdone, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in broth, Parmesan, and butter. Take the risotto out of the oven and place over medium heat. Uncover, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, Parmesan, and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Finish the risotto with pesto and peas. Stir in the peas and pesto. Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the crispy pancetta and more Parmesan cheese.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.