Recipe courtesy of Pamela Salzman

Baked Cauliflower and Rice Risotto with Mint Pesto

I'll admit, the title of this recipe isn't super catchy--but the flavor and ease more than make up for that. If you've ever made risotto, you know that it is typically a dish that requires a lot of stirring. This version is virtually hands-free, but with the same lush and creamy consistency as traditional risotto. It's a great, easy recipe for beginners and the result is restaurant-worthy. It's super adaptable; the mint pesto is great but you can adapt your favorite risotto into this one or stir in your favorite pesto. If you want to time this perfectly for guests, you can complete the recipe through step 6 up to an hour ahead of time and leave it off the heat, covered. Five minutes before you want to eat, place over medium heat and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Mint Pesto:

2 1/2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds

1 medium-size garlic clove

2 cups packed fresh mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil

Baked Cauliflower and Rice Risotto:

2 tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup Arborio rice (see Cook's Note)

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup uncooked Cauliflower Rice (recipe follows)

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 3/4 to 3 cups very hot light chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water (or a combo of stock and water)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

1 cup baby spinach leaves (optional)

Cauliflower Rice:

1 head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), green leaves removed, cut into large pieces

Directions

  1. Make the mint pesto: Process the nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the mint, salt, and pepper to taste and pour the oil on top. Process until well blended, adding an extra tablespoon oil if needed. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. For the baked cauliflower and rice risotto: Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender and translucent, about 6 minutes. Do not let it brown.
  4. Add the Arborio rice, salt, and pepper and stir to combine, coating all the rice with the oil. Saute the rice for 3 to 4 minutes, or until some of the grains become translucent.
  5. Stir in the Cauliflower Rice and saute for 2 minutes.
  6. Pour the wine into the pan, bring to a simmer, and cook until it has been absorbed, about 3 minutes.
  7. Pour in 2 cups of the very hot stock or water, bring to a simmer, cover, and place the pan in the oven. Bake until most of the liquid is absorbed but the rice is still slightly undercooked, about 15 to 16 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and set on the stovetop over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup of superhot stock or water and cook the rice, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste the rice for doneness. Ideally, it is a little al dente and the risotto creamy. Stir in the butter, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, the spinach, if using, and the pesto. Adjust the consistency with additional stock, if needed; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve immediately with the remaining Parmesan on the side.

Cauliflower Rice:

Yield: Makes 3 cups.
  1. Place the cauliflower in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for about 30 seconds, or until you get very small pieces (resembling snow or rice).

Cook’s Note

Never rinse Arborio rice. The reason you use this type of rice for risotto is that it is very high in starch, which releases into the water and gives risotto its creamy texture. Rinsing the rice washes away some of that starchiness and your risotto won't be as creamy.

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