RISOTTO CON PESTO… Red Pecan Pesto and Pea Risotto

by valentinalucia

After being inspired by a recipe in the latest Food Network magazine, my mom and I decide to mix two of our family’s favorite foods—risotto and pesto, and born was this delicious bowl—Red Pecan Pesto and Pea Risotto!

Sorry for the terrible picture. All I had was my Blackberry on hand. But all you really need to know is how well a creamy pesto pairs with a traditional, creamy risotto milanese. In fact, this recipe is basically a typical risotto milanese recipe (saffron is the signature of Milano-inspired risotto) just with added pesto. The pesto deepens the flavor of the risotto, adding a distinct bright, peppery bite. The peas and ham add texture, and the entire dish is nicely colored by the burnt yellow saffron and the vibrant orange-red of the pesto. It’s a very pretty bowl of rice, and I’m almost sad I didn’t take a better picture—but it was too good to eat, so I’m happy in the sense that I didn’t waste any time to dig in!

Red Pecan Pesto and Pea Risotto

Yields 3-4 servings


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups rice

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 slices ham, chopped

5-6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, any you choose)

1 packet saffron (optional)

1/2 cup red pesto (recipe below)

1/3 cup grated cheese (I recommend Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino, or another salty cheese)

Red Pecan Pesto:

3-4 cloves garlic

1 large roasted red pepper

8-10 sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in boiling water

1/4 cup roasted pecans

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Asiago cheese (or any salty cheese you prefer)

cracked black pepper

a pinch of ground thyme

a pinch of red pepper flakes


1. Place olive oil in a large, cast-iron pot (or regular pot), and saute the onions. Once onions become fragrant, add garlic and saute until they release aroma. Add ham and stir.

2. Add rice and stir to toast. Once rice becomes semi-golden, add white wine and stir. When all the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add ladles of the prepared broth until the broth just covers the rice.

3. Stir occasionally, and once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, repeat and cover rice again with ladles of broth. Repeat until rice is almost completely cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

4. Make the pesto: place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse in 5-second intervals until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

5. During the last five minute of cooking, first add the saffron and red pecan pesto, and stir until the saffron colors the risotto. Finally, add the grated cheese, stir vigorously to thicken the risotto, and cover the pot. Let cook for the remaining time and serve hot.