Risotto is one of my go-to “I’m exhausted and don’t feel like cooking, but I deserve to eat something delicious” meals. Traditional risotto is pretty needy — it demands that hot stock be slowly stirred into rice, one ladleful at a time, over the course 30 or so minutes. But baked risotto is, I swear to you, possibly even more delicious, and so absurdly easy.
We’re again using the oven method to cook our risotto (no constant stirring necessary!), but this time instead of using farro, we’re using brown rice.
Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice, a short white grain, so traditional Italians will be absolutely perplexed by our use of brown rice (on top of baking instead of stirring!) here. I love white rice, but brown rice achieves such a lovely, tender texture when cooked this way, and it has so much more fiber and nutrients than white rice. And in a vegetarian meal (actually, we’re using beef stock so it’s not totally veg, but vegetarians can use veggie stock!), the additional fiber is really important to help keep us fuller for longer.
Meanwhile, we’re making walnut chili crunch by toasting some walnuts in good olive oil with salt and red pepper flakes, then adding lemon zest and fresh parsley to bring them to life. The risotto is wonderful without it, but the flavorful crunch on top is pretty special.
Once the rice is tender, we’ll stir in some delicious things to flavor the risotto like wine, lemon juice, Parm, and Gruyère.
Using beef stock here to cook the rice, together with the mushrooms and onions, gives this risotto a beef bourguignon vibe. It’s rich and hearty, while still feeling really vibrant thanks to the lemon and parsley.
no-stir mushroom risotto with walnut chili crunch
Cook time: 20 minutes active, 1 hour 10 minutes total
Medium skillet (10 inches or so)
Heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot such as a Dutch oven or braiser
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 pound mushrooms (any kind!), washed, trimmed, and sliced (or buy them pre-sliced)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
6 1/2 to 7 cups beef stock, divided (I use low-sodium beef-flavored Better Than Bouillon, duh!)
1/2 cup white wine (whatever kind you like as long as it’s not super sweet … and if you don’t like white, you can use 1/4 cup red)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) Gruyère, grated
2 ounces (1/4 cup) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (aka good Parmesan), plus more for garnish
Walnut Chili Crunch:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup raw walnuts (or pecans, or hazelnuts, or basically any nut)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350°F. Position an oven rack in the middle of your oven.
Slice 1 medium yellow onion as thinly as you can. Thinly slice 1 pound mushrooms.
Warm 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large ovenproof pot over high heat. Add the sliced onions and mushrooms and stir to coat in oil. Let them sit for 3 minutes, stir, then let them sit for another 3 minutes. If the mushrooms or onions are burning, turn down the heat, but cooking them over high heat will help their moisture evaporate and let them brown quickly! Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue stirring until the mushrooms and onions are very tender and browned.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups brown rice and continue stirring for 1 minute to toast the grains a bit (this adds flavor and helps the rice grains stay evenly cooked). Pour in 6 cups beef stock (or 6 cups water and 2 tablespoons beef-flavored Better Than Bouillon) and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Cover the pot (use a baking sheet if you don’t have a lid!) and transfer the pot to the center rack of the oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed.
While the risotto is in the oven, make the Walnut Chili Crunch. Warm 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet (10 inches or so) over medium heat, then add 1 cup walnuts (crunch them in your fist to break them into small bits as you add them to the skillet) and a big pinch of salt and toast, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden-brown. Add the zest of 1 lemon (set the zested lemon aside — we’ll use it in a bit) and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you like), and keep stirring for 30 more seconds (no longer — the zest and pepper flakes will burn!). Turn off the heat and stir in 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley. Leave the crunch in the skillet to cool. Taste and add more salt and red pepper flakes as needed.
After 50 to 60 minutes of baking, take the pot out of the oven.
Place the pot over low heat on the stove. Stir in 1/2 cup white wine, 1/4 cup stock, the juice of 1/2 lemon (use the one you zested for the crunch!), 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère, and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir until the cheese is melted and the the rice has come together into a risotto consistency.
You might want to add more stock depending on how your rice is absorbing the liquid. The risotto should be saucy and loose, not thick and gloopy.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
It’s worth talking about this again: “Taste and adjust seasonings” is arguably the most important part of every recipe. All ingredients and stoves and tastebuds are different — you gotta taste and adjust. You might want to add the second half of the lemon for more brightness, extra Parm for more savory flavor, or more salt if you’re like me and love salt. Do your thing! Make it your own!
Divide the risotto between 4 to 6 bowls and add a nice sprinkle of Parm and Walnut Chili Crunch. Enjoy!
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WTF do I cook this in? If you own a Dutch oven or a braiser — bingo, one of those. If you own ANY stainless steel pot, you can use that! Stainless steel is ovenproof! A 12-inch cast iron skillet is perfect too, just throw a rimmed baking sheet on top to serve as the lid. When in doubt: Flip your pot over to find the brand name and specs and Google “is XYZ ovenproof?'“
I’m feeling traditional: Make traditional risotto by using arborio rice, 4 (not 6) cups of chicken stock, and using only Parm instead of gruyère. Nix the walnut chili crunch and just serve it with a sprinkle of Parm on top.
Bring it to a friend who needs a food hug: Deliver it with 1 cup of stock and instruct them to reheat it in a skillet, and stir in a bit of stock as needed until they get the right consistency. If I was delivering this meal for a meal train, I’d also send some steamed artichokes or a big arugula salad.
Must have meat: Honestly any meat would be great with this risotto, but I have three low-fuss ideas for adding meat to this meal.
Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs: Season with EVOO, salt, and pepper and just roast them on a sheet pan in the oven at the same time as the risotto.
Shrimp: Use at least 20 per pound-sized, peeled, and deveined shrimp. Season with EVOO, salt, and pepper and roast them on a sheet pan in the oven for the last 10 minutes or so of the risotto baking time.
Sausage: Brown 1 pound sausage in the Dutch oven before you do anything else. Transfer it to a large bowl once cooked, but leave all the fat behind. Continue with the recipe as written. Stir the cooked sausage back into the pot along with the cheeses.
Gimme some greens: Stir in two big handfuls of spinach when you add the cheeses to the pot.
Prep ahead: This is a great make-ahead meal! You can cook the whole thing up to a day in advance of when you plan to eat. Just store your Walnut Chili Crunch in an airtight container or Ziploc (either at room temp or in the fridge is fine), and your cooked risotto either in the pot (with its lid on) in the fridge or in airtight containers. Reheat the pot of risotto over medium heat, adding more stock or water a splash at a time as needed to get it creamy again.
Love your leftovers:
LOTS of ways to repurpose leftover Walnut Crunch! Add it to any salad, grain bowl, or sheet-pan meal for some added crunch (it’d be amazing with sheet-pan honey-roasted chicken, carrots, and brussels sprouts with tahini yogurt or subbed for pecans in sheet-pan chicken and squash). It’d also be great on top of sheet-pan roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas, or just by itself as a snack! Store it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for up to a month.
Leftover risotto will stay good in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it on a stovetop or in the oven or microwave. Add splashes of stock (or water) to loosen it a bit while reheating.
Or make arancini — Stir an egg and some breadcrumbs into leftover risotto, shape it into balls, roll the balls in breadcrumbs and fry them! Here’s a recipe you can loosely follow using your leftovers.
Freezer-friendly: You can halve the recipe if you’re cooking for two, but I highly recommend cooking the whole thing and freezing leftover portions of the risotto in quart-sized Ziplocs for a quick lunch or dinner later on! See above for how to reheat once it’s thawed.
Dairy-free: Use your favorite melty non-dairy cheese OR 1 cup of a dairy-free cream cheese plus 1/2 cup of dairy-free Parmesan (VioLife is the community fave). OR, you could just enjoy the “mushroom rice pilaf” by stopping the recipe after it bakes. You could use the rice as a base for a rice bowl by loading arugula, the walnut chili crunch, and whatever else you want on top.
Gluten-free: It’s gf as is!
Beef stock: Chicken or vegetable stock or broth, or water + another flavor of Better than Bouillon
Onion: You can use any onion or shallot here. Leftover pearl onions from Kinda Coq? Throw those in the pot when you add the rice. Hate onions? Leave it out and double the mushrooms. Two pounds will seem like a lot, but they cook down so much.
Mushrooms: Hate mushrooms? Double the onion! You could also swap in another veggie like peas, a classic risotto addition. Stir in 2 cups of frozen peas to the pot when you add the cheese. You could also add 1 cup with the mushrooms!
EVOO: Olive oil or another oil sub like canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil
Brown rice: Arborio rice (which is the classic choice for making risotto) or any white rice, farro, or barley (to use up your leftovers from good soup) would all work here! Only use 4 cups of broth when baking them, then stir in more after if needed. Long grain brown rice will also work, but bake it with 1/2 cup less water.
White wine: We are using the wine for acidity. If you don’t have or don’t want to use wine, add extra lemon juice — definitely the other half of the lemon you have, and maybe half of another. Taste test as you add it. P.S. I love using Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc — you can usually find it for about $12. You could also use red wine if it’s what you have open.
Lemon: 1 tablespoon of a light-colored vinegar like white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Gruyère: Sharp cheddar (preferably white but yellow would still taste great), gouda, Swiss, or even goat cheese!
Parm: Manchego, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, or extra Gruyère
Walnuts: Pecans, pepitas, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, or basically any other nut or seed. Just chop them a bit before adding to the skillet.
Lemon zest: No sub here, just omit if needed! But it’s really good in the crunch.
Red pepper flakes: A pinch of cayenne pepper or omit
Parsley: Fresh basil would be great. Or 2 teaspoons of whatever dried green herb you have — oregano, parsley, basil, Italian herbs…
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Editor: Molly Ramsey
Illustrations: Nhung Lê
Thanks for the fab meatless ideas for Catholics in lent right now! Excellent timing 😁
This recipe is magic. It came out of the oven and was perfect. I want the walnut crunch on everything going forward and I will never make risotto on the stove again!