Risotto al Limone

Risotto al Limone
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finished risotto
Dig in, everyone!

Normally, when we make risotto for our Sunday dinner, it’s Risotto al Funghi or in English, Porcini Risotto. But, it turns out that there are some people out there who don’t like mushrooms. Unbelievable, right? We don’t want to name names, but you know who you are. And we are a bit suspicious.

So, this week we made up a batch of risotto with all those mushroom haters in mind: Risotto al Limone. Even if you don’t know any Italian, if you guessed this is simply risotto with lemon, you’re right.

A savory rice dish with lemon doesn’t seem like as if would be a good combination, but we thought that we might just be surprised. After all, lemon pepper sauce is good, and lemon caper sauce is good, so, why not lemon with rice?

We’ve wanted to try this dish ever since we first read about it in Yvette Van Boven’s book, Homemade. Part of the instructions call for broiling lemon wedges to make them sweet! Who wouldn’t want to try that? While we followed her recipe almost exactly, we strongly suggest leaving out the egg yolk, as it seems to eliminate the creaminess which we love so much in the risotto.

Serves 2

Risotto al Limone

Risotto al Limone


  • 4 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2-3 cups vegetable broth (brought to a simmer in another saucepan)
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter for finishing
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Abbreviated Instructions

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté onions in the four tablespoons butter until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add rice and fry until translucent with a white core, no more than 2 minutes.

Add white wine and lemon juice.

When wine and lemon juice are absorbed, add approximately 1/3 cup hot vegetable broth. Repeat, adding vegetable broth as it is absorbed.

Once rice is al dente, or cooked but slightly chewy in the center (about 20-30 minutes), season with salt and pepper, stir in cheese until melted, and remove from heat.

Add finishing butter in small bits and stir in egg yolk, if using.

Broil lemon wedges until covered with black specks.

Serve risotto with garnish of lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. Place broiled lemon wedges on the side for squeezing juice over the risotto.


Ingredient discussion:

Note that this recipe will not work without arborio rice or another type of rice that is grown for risotto. Ordinary rice will not release the starch to make the risotto creamy. Instead, you’ll have a flavored rice, which isn’t what you want. Trust us, we’ve tried. For the white wine, we suggest using a Pinot Grigio, partly because we like it and partly because it’s generally a reliably good wine regardless of the price (We buy Barefoot brand, which is our favorite). The wine isn’t strictly necessary, but, we’ve found that risotto without wine tastes a bit flat, as if it’s lacking something. Don’t even get us started on the Parmesan cheese, or you’ll hear a rant about the sawdust-filled green shaker cans. For the vegetable broth, we try to save the water we use for steaming fresh vegetables. We put it in a small, seal-able container and freeze it. You never know when you might need broth for soup, or in this case, risotto. It’s a really good habit to get into.

Procedure in detail:

all ingredients in place
For recipes that are new to you, we really recommend doing all the prep work before starting. We do it, and it makes everything go far more smoothly.

Mise en place. Since this was a new recipe, with a number of ingredients, we made sure to get everything ready beforehand. It made us feel like real chefs. It can do the same for you, but, more importantly, it can save you from disaster. Not a disaster on the scale of a flood, mind you, but more on the scale of avoiding a burnt dinner because you were busy zesting a lemon when you should have been stirring.

Sauté onion. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the finely-diced onions. We like to dice the onion as finely as we can, about 1/8-inch on a side; that way, they seem to melt right into the risotto and no one is surprised by biting into a big onion chunk. Sauteing until tender will take about 8 to 10 minutes; you want them tender, but not browned.

sauteing rice
You don’t want to sauté the rice too long, about a minute should do it.

Fry rice. Add the arborio rice to the onion and stir it around until the rice is translucent near the edges but still has a white core, no longer than 2 minutes. If you cook the rice longer, it will become sealed and the starches will not release during the rest of the cooking process; your risotto will not be as creamy as it could be.

adding lemon juice
First liquids in are the wine and lemon juice; once absorbed, start adding broth in small amounts.

Add wine and lemon juice. Pour in the wine and lemon juice and stir while it sizzles. This is good practice for what’s coming next. Keep stirring until the wine and lemon juice are almost completely absorbed.

cooking risotto
Never let the rice get soupy. You aren’t boiling it; instead, you’re doing something more akin to braising the rice, which helps release the starches.

Add broth. Repeatedly add about 1/3 cup of the hot broth and stir until it is nearly absorbed, then add more broth. Continue adding and stirring, never letting it get soupy, until the rice is tender on the outside and just a bit chewy on the inside, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you run out of hot broth, switch to simmering water.

seasoning risotto
We go easy on the salt when seasoning at this stage. Remember that cheese is salty, so go easy or you’ll have something that tastes like a salt lick.

Season. Get out the salt and pepper, and put in an amount that seems reasonable; we use about 1/3 to 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and about 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remember, you can add more later, but you won’t be able to remove any.

adding cheese
Use freshly-grated real Parmesan cheese. It’s worth it.

Add cheese. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and, when melted, remove from heat.

adding egg yolk
We had an egg yolk left from another recipe, so we thought we’d try it. We wouldn’t go to the trouble of separating an egg just for the risotto, though.

Finish. Put small bits of butter on top of the risotto, and drop the egg yolk, if using, on top. Immediately stir it in so the yolk doesn’t cook and congeal. Then, cover the risotto while you broil the lemons.

broiling lemon wedges
A quick, disposable, aluminum foil broiling pan. Perfect for a few lemon wedges!

Broil lemon wedges. For broiling something like this, we find that making an impromptu pan from aluminum foil works great. It’ll stand up to the broiler, and you just crumple and toss after you’re done. Broil those lemon wedges about 5 minutes, or until black specks start to form. As with all broiling action, check frequently; food under the broiler can go from not ready to burnt in a really short time.

garnished risotto
You never go wrong garnishing with a bit more cheese, do you?

Plate. Scoop risotto onto plates, garnish with a bit more grated Parmesan cheese and the lemon zest, then serve with the broiled lemon wedges.

This was a nice change of pace from our usual porcini risotto. We can’t say we like it as much, but, as with almost all well-cooked risotto, it’s very good. We will say that the broiled lemon wedges really didn’t get sweet. They stayed lemony, which is okay, but disappointing after reading that they’ll get sweet. If anything, we would probably cut back a bit more on the lemon, and we’d definitely forgo on the egg yolk. That did nothing for the richness, and only seemed to make the risotto less creamy. But, never fear; we did eat every bite for dinner on Sunday. It’s risotto, after all. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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