Creamy zucchini risotto made with just a few ingredients; simple Italian-style food at its best. Perfect as a light main meal or as a side dish.
Risotto is a dish I cook very often. Not only this cheesy zucchini risotto recipe but countless other recipes, either vegetarian or with chicken, fish, or anything else you can think of. Risotto has a reputation for being labor-intensive, but it really isn't. It's fast, it's incredibly versatile, and it tastes fantastic – always!
Are you not convinced? Try some of our favorite recipes like the Creamy Pumpkin Risotto, Salmon Risotto, the Creamy Gorgonzola Risotto with Pumpkin, or the Leftover Turkey Risotto (perfect for the coming time of year). Or make Pea and Asparagus or Wild Garlic Risotto in spring. They are all easy recipes that make the most of simple ingredients.
Delicious risotto of any kind is one of our favorite quick dishes; it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. It usually doesn't require any shopping. You can make it with almost anything you happen to have in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. It can be vegetarian or vegan; you can serve it as a side dish or make it a complete meal by serving it with a simple salad.
What gives risotto a creamy texture?
The constant addition of more stock or broth and the frequent stirring release the rice's starches. They thicken into a creamy sauce that coats the rice and makes it irresistible. That's why slow cooking, stirring, using the right kind of rice, and adding the liquid only gradually are so important.
What do you need for zucchini risotto?
The ingredients list is short, with only two main ingredients. The rest of the ingredients are stuff you probably already have in your pantry or fridge.
- Definitely risotto rice like Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Carnaroli. I use Arborio most of the time because it's the most widely available around here. But I do buy Carnaroli every time I get a chance; it's just great.
- All three are Italian short-grain rice sorts with high starch content.
- Should you not find any of them, look for packages labeled "Risotto rice"; they should be fine as well.
- About 3 medium zucchini (650 g/ 23 oz)
- Vegetable broth or chicken broth or stock. I prefer chicken stock because I always have a jar or two of homemade stock in the fridge or freezer.
- However, other kinds of stock are fine; the only thing you have to consider is using a low-sodium brand. Most of the liquid will evaporate during cooking, and if the stock is too salty, the resulting dish will be way too salty.
- If you only have regular stock or a bouillon cube, prepare the stock, taste it and add more water if too salty.
- Freshly grated from a wedge of cheese.
- Keep in mind that Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian. So if you want the food to remain vegetarian, use vegetarian hard cheese.
- Fresh herbs to sprinkle over the dish are optional but delicious. My favorite choice is dill (I love the flavor), but fresh parsley or fresh basil, thyme, sage, summer savory, or even chives are great as well. Just make sure that the herbs are fresh.
- If you don't have fresh herbs, you can add about ½ teaspoon of dried thyme or summer savory or a pinch of sage to the dish when adding the white wine. All the other mentioned herbs should only be used fresh (or frozen), never dried.
Other ingredients: one onion, three garlic cloves, one cup of white wine, three tablespoons of butter, salt, and black pepper.
How to make risotto with zucchini?
- Bring chicken or vegetable stock to a simmer on the hob. Use a jug pot for easy pouring or a soup ladle to add broth to the rice.
- Finely chop the onions and the garlic.
- Grate the zucchini on the large side of a box grater.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and cook the chopped veggies on medium heat for about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent. Don't let them get brown. (1)
- Add the rice. Stir to coat with the butter and keep stirring for about 3-4 minutes until the rice is translucent. (2)
- Pour in the white wine and stir on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes until the wine evaporates completely. (3)
- Start adding the cooking liquid, about 1 cup at a time, stirring often but gently. Only add the next cup of broth when the previous one has been completely absorbed. (4)
- Check the package instructions of the risotto regarding the cooking time. Depending on the brand, the cooking process might take between 20 and 30 minutes. The rice should be soft but not mushy.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Cook the zucchini on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring until golden and only slightly softer. Remove from the heat. (1)
- Once the risotto is ready (2), stir in the zucchini and reheat gently for another 2-3 minutes. (3)
- Add grated Parmesan, the remaining butter, pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well until the cheese and butter are melted, and the dish is glossy and creamy. (4)
- Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with herbs if desired.
Tips for cooking a good risotto
- Use risotto rice; you can't replace it with regular rice and expect the same results.
- Don't wash the rice – that will wash away most of the starches, and the dish will not be creamy anymore.
- Stir often – the mantra of cooking risotto is constant stirring. Well, I never do; I never have that time or that patience. But I do stir very often, every minute or so. Stir gently, trying not to crush the rice, especially towards the end of the cooking process. I always use a wooden spoon.
- Heavy-bottomed pot – it's essential to stop the rice from sticking. I use a large and relatively shallow Dutch oven most of the time. However, a large, heavy-bottomed nonstick pot is fine as well.
- Stock – the chicken stock or veggie broth you are gradually adding to the rice should always be warm, even better simmering. I measure it initially and keep it in a small jug pot on the hob on the lowest setting. Use low-sodium stock or broth; otherwise, the food might be too salty at the end.
- Cooking temperature – cook the rice on medium-low or low heat, it should be simmering gently, but it should not come to a boil.
- Cook al dente – the rice should be nice and soft but not mushy; you should be able to see the grains of rice and not have a mushy pudding on the plate.
- Butter – don't skip the butter at the end; it makes the dish creamier and more decadent. Even a tiny amount helps.
- Vegan alternative - make a vegan risotto by replacing the butter with extra virgin olive oil and the cheese with nutritional yeast.
Risotto is best served immediately, but leftovers keep in the fridge for 2-3 days in an airtight container. Cool quickly and refrigerate; you should not keep cooked rice at room temperature for long.
Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. When reheating on the stovetop, add a splash of stock or water and keep stirring until the rice is hot.
Zucchini risotto is excellent on its own as a simple but incredibly rich and delicious main meal. Serve with a salad with vinaigrette, cucumber salad, or just some sliced tomatoes with salt, and everything will be perfect. You can also serve the dish with steamed, boiled, or roasted vegetables. For example, try some Buttered Peas or Roasted Carrots.
Risotto with zucchini makes a beautiful side dish for almost any kind of protein you can think of, from simple fried or poached eggs to Chicken Breast, Roast Chicken, steak, fish, scallops, or shrimp.
More zucchini recipes
Creamy Zucchini Risotto Recipe
- Large Dutch oven or another heavy-bottomed pot
- 1 medium onion about 150 g/ 5.3 oz
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 2 cups risotto rice Note 1
- 1 cup white wine
- 5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth or stock Note 2
- 3 medium zucchini 650 g/ 23 oz
- ⅓ cup Parmesan freshly grated from a wedge
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper more to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other herbs
- Prepare stock: Bring broth to a simmer, leave it on the lowest heat during the entire cooking process.
- Chop vegetables: Finely chop the onions and the garlic.
- Cook vegetables: Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot (for instance, Dutch oven or nonstick pot). Cook the chopped veggies for about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent; they should not get brown.
- Add rice: Stir in the rice until coated with butter and cook, often stirring, for about 3-4 minutes until the rice is translucent.
- Add white wine and stir for about 2 minutes until completely evaporated. Start adding the cooking liquid, about 1 cup (large soup ladle) at a time, stirring often but gently. Only add the next cup of liquid when the previous one has been completely absorbed. Cook the rice until al dente, about 25 minutes.
- Cook zucchini: While the rice is cooking, grate the zucchini on the large side of a box grater. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick pan and cook zucchini for 2-3 minutes, often stirring, until golden and only slightly softer. Remove from the heat.
- Finish dish: Once the risotto is ready, add zucchini and reheat gently for another 2-3 minutes. Add Parmesan, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to melt cheese and butter; the dish should be glossy and creamy.
- Rest: Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with herbs if desired.
- Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano.
- This amount of broth should be enough for the rice. However, if you notice that the rice is not entirely done yet, but you are out of stock, prepare a little more stock or add a little hot water, as much as necessary to finish the dish.