We make risotto A LOT. And honestly we love it every time! But this one just hits differently. With the fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic and a few other additions, this risotto has quickly become one of our favorites! We know you will love the fresh, yet rich, flavors in this Cherry Tomato Garlic Basil Risotto!
What makes this risotto so special?
One of the reasons risotto is such a popular dish throughout the world is because of its creamy texture without the addition of cream. The creaminess is the result of the process where the rice releases its starch into the
liquid slowly, forming a creamy, wonderful risotto. This texture is the essence of risotto and its important to use the right rice in order to achieve this amazing creamy consistency.
What rice can I use to make risotto?
Bottom line: not all rice is created equally when it comes to risotto.
As for the rice, Carnaroli is our favorite, but Vialone Nano, and Arborio work very well also. We have found that Arborio is the most readily available where we are, but we go out of our way to find Carnaroli. It just produces a
creamier texture and has a better overall mouthfeel in our opinion.
Can I use different tomatoes?
Using cherry tomatoes is important to this dish. Grape tomatoes have a wonderful flavor, but
they have too thick of a skin and have too firm of a texture (in our opinion) to go with the melt-
in-your-mouth risotto. Obviously, summertime cherry tomatoes from farmers’ markets or your
backyard garden will make this dish better if you have those options, but this is still fabulous with store-bought
cherry tomatoes that are generally available year-round.
Any other tomato won’t result in the same flavor profile for this dish, so go ahead and buy those cherry tomatoes and you won’t regret it!
Four other important ingredients round out this dish and are important for the final flavor
White Balsamic Vinegar
First, white balsamic vinegar is now widely available, and it lends a great complimentary touch to the dish. Just a touch of sweetness and unique flavor without being overpowering is
what the vinegar brings to this risotto.
Second, we used garlic. Most of the time, we do not use garlic when cooking risotto. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love garlic, but we find that in the US especially, garlic is overused in Italian food and often overpowers the entire dish. We love to keep some dishes truer to the source, and risotto is often one of those dishes. However, we found that the addition here was subtle enough to enjoy but added depth of flavor and just made the overall taste a bit better with more levels of flavor.
Third is the Pecorino Romano cheese. Again, we usually opt for Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), because it is
perfect for risotto. But here, the earthier sheep’s milk cheese, Pecorino, just works better to counter
the sweetness of the tomatoes. Either will work, but the Pecorino works best in our opinion.
Finally, don’t forget tomato’s best friend – basil. Not only does the fresh basil pop with color, but it
also balances the dish perfectly.
Tips for Making a Better Risotto
- Use the correct rice! Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Aborio
- Use a good quality stock (low sodium preferred).
- Add the stock slowly, 1-2 small ladles at a time, and allow it to soak into the rice completely before adding the next ladles of stock.
- Stir frequently! Risotto requires some babysitting to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and absorbs the stock evenly.
- Tastes your risotto at the 18-20 minute mark when about 3/4 of the stock has been added. When it is done, the rice should be al dente (it will have a little bite), but should not be hard or crunchy.
We hope you enjoy this recipe for Cherry Tomato Garlic Basil Risotto! If you give it a try, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the recipe in comments below. Or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
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