Tasty Tomato Risotto


Every work day, I get the Wall Street Journal from a co-worker.  There are a few of us who read the firm's subscription and we pass it along to each other when we finish.  Whoever gives it to me usually mentions an article they read and often that article relates to what we do at work (not surprising).  I, however, have a confession.  My favorite section of the Wall Street Journal (and often the only section I read rather than skim) is the Personal Journal.  This section has clever articles about fashion, food and society... and let's be serious... when it comes to finance vs. fashion or law vs. food, my allegiances are clear.

A few weeks ago, my inattention to financial news and global political struggles was rewarded when I stumbled upon an article about Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, a chef who has worked at French Laundry and now runs two restaurants in Boulder, Colorado.  He shared a recipe for "Early Summer Tomato Risotto" that I knew I had to try given the abundance of heirloom and local tomatoes available at the farmer's markets.

This risotto has a nice tomato flavor that is complemented by the parmesan cheese and the fresh basil.  I did make a few adjustments to the original recipe that I think enhanced the flavor... the original recipe called for you to separate/strain the tomato "solids" from the juice (which I didn't do - I didn't want to waste the tomato skins and I don't find them offensive) and I added some homemade vegetable stock into risotto in lieu of some of the water for extra flavor.  This is a beautiful meal to serve in the summer when tomatoes are ripe and lovely and I can imagine this with yellow and orange cherry tomatoes on top for variety and a burst of color.  Even better, this takes only thirty minutes to prepare.

Tomato Risotto
Adapted from Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's recipe in the WSJ
Total Time = 30 minutes
Yield = 6 serving 


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 
½ cup yellow onion, diced small 
1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for seasoning 
2-4 cups water 
2 cups vegetable stock (if you don't have vegetable stock, just use water instead)
1 pound juicy, ripe tomatoes 
2 stalks celery 
2 cups Carnaroli or arborio rice 
4 tablespoons basil, chopped medium-fine 
1 cup grated parmesan cheese 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved


1. Set a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Sweat onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. In another pot, bring water to a simmer. Heat vegetable stock in microwave until hot, approximately 2 minutes (you can also do this in another saucepan).

3. While water heats up and onions cook, juice tomatoes and celery. If you don't have a juicer, pulse tomatoes and celery in a food processor or blender until liquefied.

4. Turn onion pot's heat up to medium-high and stir rice into the sautéed onions. Toast 2 minutes, or until grains are hot and opaque.

5. Deglaze pot with 2 cups vegetable stock. Stir until liquid is absorbed and season with 2 teaspoons salt. Adjust heat to keep risotto at a steady simmer. Add another 1-2 cups water and continue to stir often.

6. Once liquid is absorbed, add another 1-2 cups water and continue to stir regularly.

7. When rice has cooked for about 15 minutes, or once it is five minutes shy of al dente, stir in tomato juice. Cook, while stirring, 4 additional minutes, or until risotto is creamy and rice is al dente.

8. Quickly stir in 4 tablespoons olive oil, basil and parmesan. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Taste and season with salt, if needed.

9. In a small bowl, mix cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and pinch of salt.

10. Garnish risotto with tomato-oil mixture. Serve immediately.