Spring Pea and Lemon Risotto

Risotto with green peas on a white plate and black table cloth. There is a floral napkin in the background.

No one has to know how easy this is.

By Erin Henderson

Risotto is one of those dishes, like duck confit and gnocchi, that freaks out home cooks. It has a reputation for being fussy and high maintenance, constantly needing to be stirred and attended to.

And, like duck confit and gnocchi, this reputation is undeserved.

Like anything in life, it might take you one or two tries to feel comfortable making this creamy rice dish, but I’m certain that once you try it, you’ll see there was nothing to fear. Yes, you stir quite often, but not constantly, and, there's no enslavement to the stove for hours on end. In fact, from the time the rice hits the pan, to the time it's plated, is about 20 minutes. 

Of course, you need to use specific rice for risotto. Arborio, a short-grained rice high in starch content is the most common, cheapest, and easiest to source. But if you’re feeling extra, seek out carnaroli, which is considered to be the best rice for producing ultra-creamy risotto.

But truly, you can use the supermarket arborio from commercial producers, sold for a few bucks a package, and rest assured, you’ll be just fine.

a pan on a black stove top, filled with rice and peas, a wooden spoon on the side

Spring Pea and Lemon Risotto

This really is a no-recipe, recipe. It’s the base of the risottos I use all year, swapping the lemon and peas for butternut squash in the fall, adding seared scallops if I’m in the mood, or, in winter, topping with a luscious, braised beef.

I now also make extra to ensure leftovers for arancini the next day.

Makes: two main course portions, or 4-6 sides or starter portions
Chef level: moderate

  • 5 Tbsp salted butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup diced shallot
  • 1 ½ cups arborio rice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 4 cups warm chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh spring peas
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (zest the lemon before cutting it; it easier this way.)
  • ½ cup Parmesan, finely grated
How to Make It:
  1. Warm stock in a pot over med-low heat.
  2. Warm a wide, deep sauté pan over medium heat and add 3 Tbsp butter and oil.
  3. When butter is frothy, add shallot and stir quickly so that they soften, but not brown, about a minute.
  4. Add rice and stir frequently until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour in wine and stir well and frequently (no need for constantly), allowing the wine to absorb into the rice.
  7. When wine is absorbed, ladle in a cup of stock, stirring on occasion until absorbed. Keep repeating until either the stock is gone, or the rice is creamy and still ever-so-slightly chewy to the bite. This will take about 20-25 minutes, but taste as you go to know when the texture is right for you.
  8. When the last ladle of stock has been added, add peas to rice.
  9. When stock is halfway absorbed, add in remaining butter, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese, stirring to incorporate.
  10. Pour in lemon juice, taste for seasoning.
  11. Risotto waits for no one, so serve immediately, with extra Parm for passing.
Wine Pairing:

Verdicchio, an Italian white grape grown in Marche, most famously from Castelli di Jesi and Matelica, is a dry, medium bodied white wine with silky texture and bright acidity. Flavours of orange, lemon peel and grapefruit, along with a subtle marzipan, vague herbal note and salinity are all found in the wine.

The bright acidity of the wine will help lift the rich rice, while the herbal, citrus, nutty notes in the wine compliment the risotto.

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