This is the creamiest, easiest, healthiest, tastiest, and unbelievably foolproof parmesan and pea vegetarian risotto recipe ever!
Why am I speaking in such superlatives? Because risotto is infamous for being tedious and difficult to make, and this recipe is so easy! It almost feels like a crime.
Following the traditional Northern Italian method, you would stir constantly, add bits of broth at a time, and basically watch your rice cook.
It is not so with this recipe. To make this risotto, you throw the rice into a covered pot with water or stock, and roast it in the oven. The only bit of work is at the end, where you stir vigorously for a few minutes to bring out the “cream” in the risotto.
The creaminess in this recipe comes from the starch in the rice. There is no added cream, so this recipe is nice and rich without added fat and dairy. (I love that!)
This recipe couldn’t be easier. Your prep time is about 5 minutes, and your stirring and tasting time is about 5 minutes, for a total of 10 minutes of work. You got this for sure!
Not Just Any Rice!
A risotto does require a particular sort of rice, otherwise it won’t work. What is needed is a high starch medium or short-grained rice. The shorter, fatter, and rounder the better.
This type of rice absorbs liquids and releases its starch into the risotto to create its coveted creamy texture. In Italy, or imported from Italy, one can find varieties of Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano.
In the United States, Arborio is commonly stocked at most grocery stores, and Lundberg Family Farms brand is grown in the United States and widely available. Arborio is what I have always used, but if I can get my hands on another variety I will try it.
Another advantage of the fatness of this rice is that it supports an al dente texture. Al dente is when the rice (or pasta) retains a bit of chewiness in the center from being slightly undercooked. This is what you want in a risotto.
For vegetarian risotto, a bit of texture goes a long way. If you overcook the rice you end up with a big, gloppy mess. Oh well if it happens. It will still be a tasty mess … and yes, I have done it.
Add A Vegetable Topping
This oven roasted parmesan and pea risotto is super tasty just as it is, but it is even better with a vegetable topping.
To get an idea of what to expect from the flavor, first imagine rice that is rich, buttery, and cheesy, but not overly so. Now add the flavors of white wine vinegar (a clean acid), salt, and black pepper to counterpoint the creaminess. Finally, peas for a pleasing crunch element, vitamin hit, and color contrast that breaks up the risotto’s characteristically soft and soupy, comforting texture.
For added nutrition and enhanced overall balance, I like to add a simple vegetable topping to a vegetarian risotto. Parmesan and pea risotto is a beautiful canvas for almost any vegetable, especially one that is sweet, bitter, and/or pungent.
I like a vegetable topping option that is either braised separately, or roasted along with the rice.
For braising, cook the vegetables in a sauté pan with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and water.
For roasting, toss the vegetables in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Personally, I prefer the simple preparation of the vegetables. This vegetarian risotto is so comforting that I don’t want to disturb that experience with anything too fancy, such as extra herbs and spices.
Style Your Own Vegetarian Risotto
However, I did say this risotto is a canvas, so maybe you do want to be creative. Everyone enjoys food differently. So go for it, and let me know what you discover!
If your oven can fit both the roasting vegetables and the rice, then you are gold with the roasted option. It is always nice to utilize the oven for more than one thing when it’s on if possible, and both items will be ready at the same time.
For vegetable combinations, you could try roasting any combination of butternut squash, carrots, red peppers, red onion, beets, yam, sweet potato, celery root, baby turnips, and/or leeks
For the braising option, try beets, onion, fennel, baby turnips, celery root, leeks, and/or winter greens.
I hope you try this simple vegetarian risotto. I am pretty sure you will love it! This dish is pretty complete for a meal as it is, but if you would like to explore salads to go with it, here is a helpful link.
Recipe for Easy Vegetarian Risotto with Parmesan and Peas
Roasted: butternut squash, carrots, red peppers, red onion, beets, yam, sweet potato, celery root, baby turnips, and leeks
Braised: Beets, fennel, baby turnips, celery root, leeks, winter greens
* You will need a 4–5 quart cooking pot with a tight fitting lid, such as a cast iron Dutch oven. The pot must be oven safe.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating, prepare your vegetable topping if you decide to add one. Time the vegetables to cook at the same time as the rice so that everything is ready at the same time.
- Place rice in a 4-quart dutch oven, along with 4 cups of cold vegetable stock or water. Cover, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is still slightly chewy (al dente). Remove from oven.
- Finish the risotto by adding the parmesan cheese, white wine vinegar, butter, salt, pepper, and peas. Use a wooden spoon to stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is nice and creamy.
- Transfer the parmesan and pea vegetarian risotto into a family style serving bowl, or portion into individual shallow bowls or plates. If you are including a vegetable topping, arrange it attractively on top of the rice for a beautiful presentation.