Tomato risotto

Today we travel to the Lombardy region of Northern Italy for a tasty tomato risotto. Tomatoes were introduced into Europe from the New World in the sixteenth century. Initially viewed with suspicion, the Italians were the first to use and appreciate them. In France they became known as pomme d’amore (apple of love). It is hard to imagine our diet without tomatoes today.

For this risotto recipe you need to make a tomato sauce first; this can be done beforehand and even frozen. The sauce is nicer made with fresh tomatoes in season or you can try half and half. If the tomatoes are lacking in flavour use a spoonful of tomato paste as well. Add a pinch of sugar to tinned tomatoes as they can be acidic. Use homemade vegetable stock if you can (see recipe here).

You can cheat and buy the tomato sauce and vegetable stock (although it won’t be as nice), but be careful with the salt as you may not need to add any extra.

Photography by Marina Neil

Tomato sauce (for risotto)

This basic tomato sauce is also great with pasta or to spread on pizza.


  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 750g ripe tomatoes or 2 cans tomatoes including juice
  • sea salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced


  1. Cut a little cross on the bottom of the tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Pour boiling water over to cover and leave for one minute. Drain tomatoes and plunge into very cold water. Cut out the stalk end and slip off the skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze or flick out the seeds. I do this over a strainer to catch the juices to add to the sauce. Now roughly chop the tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes you can simply cut out the stem ends and roughly chop.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and parsley. Cook for a minute and then add the tomatoes and season with salt, sugar and pepper. Cook briskly for a few minutes then turn the heat down and simmer partly covered for about 30 minutes. Stir from time to time adding a little water if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Puree the sauce if desired with a stick-blender or in a food processor. Add the fresh basil to the sauce. Reserve one cup of this sauce for the risotto.

Tomato risotto with rocket salad

Serves 4

Tomato risotto












  • 4 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 pinch saffron strands, optional
  • 8-10 (85g) sun-dried tomato halves
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups (300g) Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (see recipe above)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small handful of basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (50g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 tsp butter (optional)


  • 4 handfuls rocket or wild rocket
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar


  1. Heat the vegetable stock and saffron (if including) in a saucepan on the side of the stove and keep at a simmer. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into julienne slices.
  2. Place a large heavy-based saucepan with the olive oil on moderate heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remember the salt in the stock and sauce. Cook the vegetables for five minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add half the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for a moment. Throw in the rice and ‘toast’ it until all the grains are coated with oil. Pour in the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Risotto can be prepared ahead to this stage.
  4. Add the simmering stock to the risotto a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly. It should cook at a lively simmer. When the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful. Meanwhile gently heat the tomato sauce, ready to add to the risotto.
  5. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is just cooked. Add the hot tomato sauce during the last five minutes of cooking. It will take about 18 minutes to cook the rice; the grains should still have a bite to them and the risotto creamy. I find it helps to set a timer. Use boiling water if you run out of stock.
  6. Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan, remaining sun-dried tomatoes and butter (if using). Slice or tear the basil leaves and add to the risotto. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Cover the saucepan and leave to rest for a couple of minutes. Give it a final brisk stir to make it creamy.
  7. Serve straight away on warm plates and offer extra parmesan cheese. Toss the rocket with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and serve with the risotto.




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