If there’s one salad I can get behind, it’s a caprese. Tomato, mozzarella and basil? It’s practically a pizza.
Add some creamy arborio rice and you’ve got yourself a meal.
The only word I can think of to describe this risotto is divine. And I am usually not one to use words like that. The word ‘lush’ is pretty much at the top of my ‘most hated words’ list*.
But really. No other word will do for this. It was amazing.
When I make risotto, my default is usually a simple mushroom risotto with parsley and veggie parmesan. It’s magnificent, but this was possibly even better. In this version, the principal flavours are only added right at the end, and it’s somehow really satisfying to begin by just mixing up a very simple risotto: onion, garlic, rice and stock, and nothing else. Whereas my usual risotto is full of lumps of mushroom, stirring a pot of plain, creamy rice seems so perfect.
Although this dish is clearly far more attractive with the roasted tomatoes perched delicately on top, the flavours really come alive when you smash the tomatoes down over the rice and let the rich roasted flavour mix in with the creamy rice. There’s something about roasted tomatoes that makes them infinitely more flavourful than fresh ones.
*I don’t actually have a most hated words list.
2tbsp sunflower oil
200g cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
175g arborio rice
1 vegetable stock cube, made up in boiling water
150g mozzarella cheese, chopped into 1cm cubes
Small handful fresh basil, chopped
Heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F). Lay the tomatoes on a baking tray and toss in a small amount of oil. Roast for 30 minutes, until soft and bursting.
Meanwhile, heat a little more oil in a large pan or wok, and gently soften the onion and garlic over a medium heat. When the vegetables are soft and translucent, add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil. After a couple of minutes, pour on a small amount of hot stock. With the mixture at a steady simmer, continue adding the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring regularly, only adding more when the previous amount has been mostly absorbed by the rice. Continue to do this until the rice is tender – the amount of water/stock you will need may vary, but you will probably need to add a ladleful of stock every couple of minutes for at least half an hour.
Once the rice is tender, season with salt and black pepper, and add the fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately, topped with the roasted tomatoes and a basil garnish.