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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Beet + Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


In this risotto recipe I am using beets which are often identified with colder months. You may substitute the beets with spring or summer vegetables simply by making necessary cooking adjustments. Risotto isn't a single dish; it’s a technical procedure of cooking short grain rice slowly in broth. While ingredients vary, there is a very specific method used to make risotto.

Short grain rice is high in starch and low in amylose, a sticky glucose polymer. Rice that is too sticky or not starchy enough won't yield risotto's characteristic creamy texture, which comes from the starches in the rice. Short grain rice is produced in great quantity in Italy with many different types: from Arborio (most commonly used), to Carnaroli, Vialone Nano and Balbo. The term risotto is closely related to the Italian “riso,” or “rice.” Rice was apparently introduced to Italy by Middle Easterners, with the earliest risotto recipe dating to the 1500s, reflecting the venerability of this dish. The dish is primarily prepared in Northern Italy, with each individual region having a specific traditional recipe.

Beet + Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Servings: 6


• 7 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked
• ¼ cup dry white wine
• 1 medium red beet, brunoise (small dice)
• 10 sun-dried tomatoes, softened and minced
• 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
• 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or to taste (optional)
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste


• Bring vegetable or chicken stock to a boil in a medium stock pot, and then reduce heat to a low simmer.
• Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook for 2 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted. Pour in the wine and stir gently. Gradually ladle in simmering vegetable stock, stirring continuously. Risotto will become "creamy" and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente. This procedure will take approximately between 18 to 22 minutes.
• When almost finished, stir in the beets, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme, adding stock as needed and stirring continuously for about 6 minutes. The color will turn to a lovely purple-burgundy. Stir in basil and 3 tablespoons cheese just before serving. Some purists add additional butter to risotto at this stage but that’s completely optional. Divide risotto among 6 bowls, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Beets nutrition facts

Beets are highly nutritious and “cardiovascular health” friendly root vegetables. Certain unique pigment antioxidants in the root as well as in its top greens have found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke; lower cholesterol levels within the body, and have anti-aging effects.

Botanically, the tuberous root vegetable belongs in the Amarathaceae family, in the beta genus. Its scientific name is Beta vulgaris. Swiss chard is another member in the beta genus grown for its edible leaves.

Beets are small herbaceous plants with broad dark-green leaves. Its underground taproot matures in 50-60 days of sowing and weighs about 100 to 150 g. If not harvested, it keeps growing in size to more than 500 g and may develop surface cracks, lose taste and become unappetizing because of excess fiber content.

Different cultivars exist; red, orange-yellow and white verities. The unique crimson-red color of red beet is due to betalain pigments, such as betanin and betacyanin. Yellow varieties are rich in ß-xanthin pigment. Both root and top leaves of beet are used for consumption. Choggia beet or candy cane variety has alternative red and white concentric whorls.


Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well”. www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/


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