The first time I had beet risotto was in Paros, Greece at this restaurant called Yemeni. At first, I was a bit put off by the colour. Despite it’s deep, vibrant fuschia colour, I was hesitant about the taste. I mean beets aren’t exactly the most appetizing vegetable – although their colour is beautiful. What drew me to the dish were the generous slices of parmesan cheese on top of the risotto. My love for risotto stems from my love for parmesan. And I don’t know if you know this, but I absolutely adore parmsean cheese.
I am so glad I looked past the word “beet” and took a bite of the risotto. Much like many dishes I have tried in the past, it was love at first bite. The risotto was creamy, firm in texture and filled with the fruity and nutty taste of parmesan. I was in heaven.
Fast forward to this year, and my sister requested a beet risotto for her birthday, just like the one in Paros. This, of course, was a big task. The beetroot risotto at Yemeni was a godsend, and it had been 2 years since my first bite. I was worried that perhaps I couldn’t match the exact depth and flavour.
However, after a little searching online I came up with a recipe that I think perfectly captures the flavours of the original dish. Although I do want to say my risotto is better than Yemeni, I do think that it certainly holds its ground.
Because the thing about dishes like the risotto at Yemeni, isn’t the flavour that you cannot match, but rather the memories that it evokes.
This vibrant rouge risotto is complimented by flavours of white wine, thyme, and parmesan.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Peel the beet and cover with tinfoil. Place into preheated oven and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove beet, chop into small pieces and place them into a food processor. Pulse the beet pieces until you get a paste. Transfer the pureed beets into the prepared chicken stock.
In a large non-stick saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook until fragrant. Add the garlic and continue to stir. Pour the uncooked rice into the pan, and coat the rice with the butter mixture. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Toss in the bay leaves. Add the thyme and wines and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Lower heat completely (to a simmer).
Add 2 ladles at a time of the beet stock mixture to the risotto. Stir until combined and cover with a lid. After 2-3 minutes check the risotto to see that the majority of the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Add 2 more ladles and repeat this entire process until the risotto is completely cooked.*
Once the risotto has cooked, add the parmesan and stir. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley.
1. Making risotto takes patient, but the end result is worth it. Make sure that your risotto is cooking on the lowest heat setting. It should be at a simmer. No matter your urge do not increase the heat. Contrary to popular belief you will not cook the risotto faster. It will only burn. It took about an hour for the risotto to completely cook.
2. If you find that even after an hour of cooking, the risotto is still raw (it should be tender and firm but not chewy), you can add more than the allotted 6 cups of chicken stock. Depending on the rice 6 cups of stock may be too little or too much. That is why you add the stock in by the ladle to control the end result.
3. Remember to constantly stir your risotto so it does not burn or get stuck!