Lemon Butter Risotto with Zucchini and Parmesan celebrates the season’s harvest in a rich and creamy Italian classic. Serve this summer risotto with white fish, seared scallops or shrimp, or roasted chicken for a restaurant-worthy weeknight meal.
The Best Summer Risotto:
This beautiful risotto features toothsome arborio rice, a wealth of aromatics, and unparalleled brightness from lemon zest + juice. Not one, but two installments of Parmesan cheese adds rich saltiness, and fresh thyme lends a woodsy finish. Serve this light, yet comforting rice dish for a vegetarian dinner, or alongside your protein of choice. For example, baked white fish, roasted chicken breasts, seared scallops or shrimp.
And, despite what you may hear, risotto is actually a tremendously easy labor of love. All it takes is a little patience, which pays off tenfold when you achieve the most creamy, hearty pot of grains. In fact, just one bite may convince you that you’ve been transported to the coast of Northern Italy (Aperol Spritz in hand). Plus, there’s truly no better use of the abundance of zucchini squash right now.
How to Make Homemade Risotto:
Risotto involves the slow addition of liquid and frequent stirring to coax the starch from the rice. This is what creates the ultra creamy consistency and sets risotto apart from other rice dishes. However, there are a couple key steps to achieving the tastiest, most toothsome risotto in the game.
To start, sauté your aromatics (this recipe calls for shallots and garlic) and toast your rice in olive oil. Toasting the rice helps harden the outer hull, which ensures the grains cook evenly all the way through. Otherwise, the outside will cook faster than the inside, and you’ll end up with a mushy exterior. This usually takes about 3 to 4 minutes, however you’ll know when it’s done when the grains take on a translucent color.
Next, bring your cooking liquid (I prefer broth, however water also works) to a light simmer in a separate pot. The temperature of the liquid should closely match that of the rice, since any drastic temperature changes may shock the rice and alter its texture.
The key to risotto’s lush texture is slowing adding in liquid and agitating the rice often enough to lure starch from the grains. By doing this, you allow the rice to bump up against each other, which creates characteristic creaminess.
After that, risotto is a blank canvas to showcase seasonal ingredients. Since zucchini squash are among the most enthusiastic garden growers this time of year, this is a great way to celebrate their bounty. I also love adding wild mushrooms and cherry tomatoes for a burst of umami. Adding the lemon butter last creates a bright and glossy finish. And, if basil also happens to be in abundance in your garden, feel to add it as a garnish.
This risotto is hearty enough to enjoy on it’s own, however also pairs well with myriad proteins. If you’re vegetarian, stir in some edamame or top it with crunchy roasted chickpeas. Otherwise, fish, chicken, scallops, or shrimp pair beautifully. Lastly, if you make this recipe, be sure to tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations!
More Zucchini Recipes:
- 2 medium zucchinis
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped shallots
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
- ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Optional herb garnish: caramelized lemon wedges, fresh thyme or basil
- Slice zucchinis into ½-inch coins. Slice coins into halves or quarters, depending on size.
- Bring broth and 1 cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add zucchini and shallots; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is light golden brown. Stir in garlic, rice, thyme, and salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until grains start turning translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Ladle in 2 cups broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Ladle in another 1 cup broth, stirring frequently and allowing liquid to absorb fully before adding more. Continue to add broth in 1 cup increments until rich is al dente and creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total.
- Remove thyme sprigs and add butter, lemon juice and zest, ½ tsp. black pepper, and ½ cup of the cheese. Stir constantly until butter melts into mixture and cheese is incorporated. Remove from heat and garnish with remaining ¼ tsp. pepper, ½ cup cheese, and additional herbs, if desired.