Deconstructed Basil Pesto Risotto

Last updated: June 4th, 2024

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You can make this easy “deconstructed” basil pesto risotto in just 40 minutes. The perfect recipe for date nights and dinner parties!

A bowl of basil pesto risotto.

Here’s a little secret: making a fancy risotto dinner at home isn’t actually that hard. Take our deconstructed basil pesto risotto, for example. All you need to make this gourmet restaurant style dish is a few fresh ingredients, a frying pan, and about 40 minutes.

Inspired by our love of pesto and Italian cooking, we took a traditional basil pesto and broke it down to create a no-frills “deconstructed” version of pesto risotto. You don’t need to make pesto to make this risotto, and you don’t need to buy an expensive jar of pesto from the grocery store. All you need is some fresh basil and slivered almonds, and you’re halfway there.

This homemade pesto risotto tastes just like pesto – heavy on the basil with notes of buttery olive oil and savory parmesan. It’s fresh, it’s nutty, and it’s a no-brainer when you’ve got more basil than you know what to do with and need a cozy dinner.

Risotto garnished with fresh basil leaves.

Basil Pesto Risotto Ingredients

Our “deconstructed” basil pesto risotto takes the building blocks of traditional basil pesto – basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and nuts – and incorporates them into a traditional creamy risotto recipe.

Here’s what you’ll need to make our basil pesto risotto recipe:

  • Olive oil (regular and extra virgin)
  • Minced garlic
  • Arborio rice
  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Lemon juice
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil
  • Slivered almonds
  • Salt and pepper

We recommend using chicken broth for cooking the risotto, since it adds some much-needed savory flavor, but you can substitute with vegetable broth for a vegetarian version of this basil pesto risotto.

Although basil pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, we chose to use slivered almonds in our risotto instead since they’re more widely available, more affordable, and higher in protein! Feel free to experiment with different kinds of nuts in this recipe, as you might with making homemade pesto, to find the flavors that you like best.

A bowl of basil pesto risotto.

How To Make Basil Pesto Risotto

Home cooks are often intimidated by making risotto at home. It’s widely known as a finicky dish that can be difficult to perfect. But you know what? It’s not actually that hard, as long as you use your intuition.

The key to making great risotto at home is being patient and using your senses as a guide. And no, you don’t have to stir risotto constantly while it cooks – that actually prevents the rice from absorbing the broth the way it should! Learn more about how to make perfect risotto at home in this guide if you need more detailed tips and tricks before diving into this particular recipe.

If you’re feeling ready, here are step-by-step instructions for how to make our deconstructed basil pesto risotto:

  1. First, heat olive oil and garlic in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Then, add the arborio rice and stir it around for about 30 seconds to briefly toast it and bring out more flavor.
  2. Next, stir in about a half cup of broth and bring the risotto to a simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. Once the rice has absorbed most of the broth, stir in another half cup of broth and let simmer again, stirring occasionally. Repeat this process of adding more broth each time the pan looks dry, until all the broth has been used and the risotto is chewy.
  3. Then, remove the pan from heat. Stir in the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and slivered almonds until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

Basil Pesto Risotto Serving Suggestions

Since this risotto is pretty filling thanks to the almonds, you can easily serve this as a main dish for dinner with a side salad or some Italian bread and dipping oils. Impress your dinner party guests with a big batch of this risotto, or make it on a regular old weekday when your basil plant is going crazy! It’s also a great date night dinner or Valentine’s Day meal if you’re looking to impress your significant other.

Like most risotto dishes, you can also serve basil pesto risotto alongside chicken breast or another main protein. Its fresh, herbal flavor brightens up any dish.

Deconstructed basil pesto risotto in a bowl.

Storing & Reheating Leftovers

We recommend making only as much basil pesto risotto as you plan on eating. Since it has a ton of fresh basil leaves mixed into it, leftovers won’t stay fresh in the fridge for very long or reheat particularly well.

If you do happen to have some leftovers, we recommend storing it in an airtight container in the fridge and eating it the next day. Gently reheat in a frying pan over low heat until just warmed through.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Deconstructed basil pesto risotto is a delicious and satisfying Italian dinner you can easily make in less than an hour. If you love the nutty, herbal flavor of fresh basil pesto, you will absolutely love this risotto recipe!

Try our deconstructed basil pesto risotto and don’t forget to let us know what you think by rating, commenting, and sharing below. For even more approachable gourmet recipes like this one, sign up for our email newsletter here.


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4.3 from 4 votes

Deconstructed Basil Pesto Risotto

You can make this easy "deconstructed" basil pesto risotto in just 40 minutes. The perfect recipe for date nights and dinner parties!
Servings 2 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¾ cup arborio rice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth sub vegetable broth for vegetarian option
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces fresh basil chopped, plus a few small leaves for garnish
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • First, heat olive oil and minced garlic in a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the arborio rice, stirring it for about 30 seconds or so to briefly toast it. Then, stir in a half cup of the chicken broth and bring the rice to a simmer. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the pan, and watch for the rice to start absorbing the broth. Once most of the broth has been absorbed, after 3 to 4 minutes or so, stir in another half cup of the broth.
    Repeat this process, keeping the risotto at a simmer and adding more broth in half cup increments as the pan starts to dry out, until all the broth has been used. Taste the risotto to check for doneness (it should taste both creamy and chewy), adding more broth and simmering a bit longer if necessary.
  • Once the risotto is cooked, remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and slivered almonds until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

Notes

Notes on ingredients: We recommend using chicken broth to add some savory flavor to the rice, but you can always substitute with vegetable broth for a vegetarian version of this recipe.
We chose slivered almonds instead of pine nuts since they are more widely available, more affordable, and higher in protein. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of nuts in this recipe to find what tastes and textures you prefer!
Tips for making risotto: The key to making great risotto at home is being patient and using your senses as a guide. If you’re new to making risotto or you’ve had trouble with it in the past, check out this detailed guide on how to make perfect risotto at home before diving into this recipe.
Serving suggestions: This risotto is very filling thanks to the almonds. We recommend serving it as a main dish, whether it’s for a dinner party, date night at home, or family dinner when the basil plant is overflowing! Make a side salad or grab a loaf of Italian bread to enjoy alongside your risotto for a complete meal.
Leftovers: Since there’s so much fresh basil in this pesto risotto, we recommend only making as much as you plan on eating and avoiding having leftovers. If you do have some leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for only a day – and reheat gently in a frying pan over low heat until just warmed through.
 
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Author: Nicole
Calories: 514kcal
Course: Dinner, Main, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: almonds, arborio rice, chicken broth, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan

Nutrition

Calories: 514kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 327mg | Potassium: 576mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1604IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 216mg | Iron: 5mg

If you have any questions regarding the information presented in this post, please refer to our Nutrition Disclaimer here.

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4.25 from 4 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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