Zucchini Risotto is a delicious summer side dish or vegetarian main course. This recipe will show you step-by-step instructions, and no, you don’t have to stir it the whole time!
This recipe for Zucchini Risotto with Feta and Herbs is loaded with the flavors of summer: zucchini, fresh basil, and fresh mint. The salty feta adds the a tangy, creamy kick to the already creamy risotto. I love it as a side dish for grilled chicken, but it would be a hearty vegetarian main dish, too.
Risotto can often get a bad rap for being fussy or time consuming. I promise that it’s not. While it takes a bit more effort than say, a pot of rice, it’s entirely worth it.
- You’ll need two small or one large zucchini. Yellow summer squash also works.
- Shallots add a savory onion-like flavor that complements the other flavors so well.
- Fresh mint and fresh basil add lots of herbaceous flavor. Use one or the other if you don’t have both (but it’s really delicious with both!).
- Arborio rice makes the creamiest risotto. Find it in the rice aisle of your local grocery store, typically in a box or a plastic jar.
- White wine adds a bit of acidity.
- The feta has a tangy bite to it. Use goat cheese as a substitute, if you prefer.
How to make risotto
Start by sautéeing zucchini in olive oil. Once the zucchini are almost tender, add the finely chopped shallots and sauté those until they are translucent.
Add the rice and stir it for about a minute, letting the remaining oil soak into the rice. Pour in ½ cup of Pinot Grigio, and let that cook off (it will essentially evaporate from the heat, but the flavor will still be there.)
Here comes the secret to risotto: add the stock several ladles at a time. As you are adding the stock, you always want to see puddles of stock in the rice. If it’s too wet or too dry, you’ll miss out on the starch developing around the rice, which is what creates a creamy risotto.
Here’s what it should look like as it cooks (note the “puddles” of stock):
I once took a cooking class on risotto from a chef who emigrated from Italy, and this was my biggest takeaway. It really works!
While you don’t need to stir it constantly, stirring it every 1–2 minutes will also make for a creamy risotto. The rice will be slightly al dente once the last of the stock has soaked into the rice.
The final step is to stir in the herbs and feta. I reserved a little bit of each for garnish.
Can I use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock?
Is this dish vegetarian?
Feta is not usually vegetarian (it’s made with animal rennet). The rest of the dish is vegetarian if you make sure to use vegetable stock. Some vegetarians eat feta cheese, so if you’re making this for a vegetarian and you’re unsure, I suggest leaving it on the side.
How does risotto get creamy without cream?
As the rice cooks, you’ll stir the risotto and add more liquid as the rice soaks it up. The process of stirring and adding liquid in stages releases the starches in the rice, which makes risotto creamy.
What’s the best type of rice for risotto?
Arborio or carnaroli rice are the best for risotto. You can find either one in your local grocery store, either near the other rice varieties or in the international foods aisle.
Zucchini Risotto is one of those dishes that is perfect for guests, or a date night at home. I opted for the latter when I served it, but it’s also on my list of recipes to make when vegetarian guests come over.
Zucchini Risotto with Basil, Mint, and Feta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into ½ inch thick slices
- 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cups arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
- 4 cups 1 quart vegetable stock + 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup crumbled feta, plus more for garnish
- Heat vegetable stock and water in a small saucepan until it reaches a simmer.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, and cook until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the rice and stir to coat the rice with the remaining oil. Cook for 1 minute. Pour in the white wine and cook until the wine is almost evaporated.
- Reduce heat to low. Add 1½ cups of the warm vegetable stock to the sauté pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the puddles of stock have disappeared (the rice should still be surrounded by liquid). Add another ladle or two of stock, until the rice is just covered again. Repeat, stirring occasionally, until all of the stock has been added to the rice and the rice is al dente.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped basil, chopped mint, and ½ cup of feta cheese. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with additional feta. Serve immediately.