Risotto and my 100th blog post giveaway!

Homemade risotto on the left, risotto made from a mix on the right

Risotto is so creamy, fragrant, and comforting that it seems like it would make a perfect winter meal but, for some reason, I always start craving risotto in the summertime. Whether it’s because my favorite risotto recipe has a lemony, herby flavor reminiscent of other favorite summer dishes, or that risotto pairs so well with grilled chicken or sausage, risotto starts showing up frequently on our table in May. This summer I have an extra reason to be excited about risotto: lemon thyme! I have had two yellow pots sitting around since we moved into our house a year ago, and I’ve been planning to plant some herbs in them. This week, as I was checking out the flowers in the garden center, I found a couple of lemon thyme plants and they smelled so heavenly that I had to buy them. I now have two cheerful yellow pots full of fragrant lemon thyme sitting on my patio and this scent inspired the risotto recipe below. The thought of lemon-thyme leads me to a giveaway! As this is my 100th post on the blog, I want to give away an organic kitchen herb garden kit from olivebarn.com to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment below, or on the Cook it Fresh facebook page, telling me your favorite recipe that uses fresh herbs. You can either provide a link to the full recipe, print the whole recipe in the comment, or just post the name of the dish. You can enter once on this blog post, once by commenting on the facebook page, and once by becoming a fan of the facebook page. I will pick a winner on Tuesday, July 5th so please have your entries in by noon on Monday, July 4th.  I can’t wait to read all your ideas and try out some new herb recipes!

Now for the risotto comparison. For the store bought risotto, I bought a Lundberg Farms Creamy Parmesan risotto mix as it seemed to have the most natural ingredients. I was frankly skeptical about whether risotto made from a mix could really achieve the fabulous, creamy texture of a homemade risotto, but you’ll have to read on below the recipe to see how the mix compared to homemade.

Ingredients for risotto and my new lemon-thyme plant

Lemon-Thyme Risotto

Serves 4


3 -4 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1 cup arborio or risotto rice

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh lemon-thyme or regular thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Peel of 1 lemon, finely grated

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and keep the broth simmering on the back of the stove.

2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the butter and the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until the onion begins to soften and looks translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and continue to saute for 1 more minute. Turn the heat down to medium-low.

3. Using a ladle, add about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the dutch oven containing the rice. Stir the rice slowly and constantly with a wooden spoon until the broth is completely absorbed. Continue to add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy; this process will take about 30 minutes. You may not use all 4 cups of broth; I’ve found this depends on how dry the air is where you live and, possibly, the elevation you live at. When I make risotto in Hawaii, I use significantly less broth than when I am cooking it in Colorado.

4. Once the rice is tender and creamy, remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the parmesan and fresh thyme leaves. Add the lemon juice, peel and remaining Tablespoon of butter to the risotto and stir gently until everything is well combined. Serve immediately, garnished with extra thyme leaves if desired.

As I mentioned above, I was certain that a boxed risotto mix would not have the  wonderful creaminess of a homemade risotto. However, I was surprised at how close this mix came to attaining the texture of a homemade risotto. The cooked rice wasn’t too hard but it didn’t get mushy and gloppy either. Although it did not save a whole lot of time, the boxed mix did earn points for simplicity:  just add water and stir occasionally as the rice simmers for 25 minutes. It did not require any of the chopping, grating, zesting, simmering or slow stirring that goes into making risotto from scratch.

The homemade risotto, on the other hand, won hands down on flavor. There is no substitute for real lemon juice, just-picked-herbs, or freshly grated parmesan. While the flavor of the store bought risotto wasn’t horrible, it was too salty and lacked the sharp freshness of the homemade variety.


Bottom Line: Risotto made from a mix has a surprisingly good, creamy texture, is very easy to prepare, and costs much less than one using fresh ingredients. However, it cannot compete with the bright, flavorful taste of a homemade risotto made from scratch.