Tomato risotto is the perfect recipe for a delicious and fulfilling family dinner. Kids will love this recipe, and picky eaters will devour it straight out of the pan.
This staple of Italian home cooking is impossible to resist because it's creamy, cheesy, delicate, and packed with comforting flavors everyone loves.
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Few dishes are as comforting as a warm, creamy plate of tomato risotto.
This recipe is so easy to put together, with simple pantry staples you probably already have at home.
You can use fresh tomatoes for a lighter recipe or tomato puree (or passata) for the creamiest risotto in the world.
We like both so much but slightly prefer the tomato puree one; it's packed with so much flavor and creaminess that it's impossible to resist.
Two of the key ingredients of most Italian risottos are parmesan cheese and butter to add even more flavor and that velvety mouth feel.
However, believe it or not, you can very easily make this recipe vegan by using vegan cheese and butter that you can now find in most supermarkets.
Whichever version you decide to make, be assured that this dish will be loved by adults and kids alike, and in just about 30 minutes, you'll have a delicious Italian dinner on the table.
Not all types of rice are suitable for risotto. The best rice varieties are Carnaroli, Arborio, Vialone Nano, Baldo, and Roma. They all do an excellent job at keeping al dente while creating a creamy texture, thanks to their high content of starch.
If you can't find those varieties, look for something that says "risotto rice" on the package.
You can make tomato risotto with canned or bottled tomato puree, sometimes known as tomato passata if imported from Italy, or you can make it with fresh cherry tomatoes.
Both are delicious. The tomato puree makes a richer, creamier risotto with more tomato flavor. The fresh cherry tomatoes make a lighter and fresher meal with less tomato taste.
Olive Oil + Onion + Garlic
Finely chopped garlic and onion are gently fried in olive oil to create a flavor base that gives plenty of flavor to this risotto recipe. You can mince the garlic cloves for a more intense garlic flavor or crush them for a lighter garlic aroma.
You can use store-bought vegetable broth or homemade vegetable broth. If you want to make vegetable broth at home, all you need to do is boil a carrot, a stalk of celery, a halved onion, a couple of bay leaves, and a pinch of coarse sea salt in plenty of water.
We prefer vegetable broth to chicken stock so that anyone, including vegetarians, can enjoy this recipe.
Important: when making risotto, add the vegetable broth slowly, and keep it simmering gently throughout the recipe. Because of that, at least one cup will evaporate, so you must make enough. In our recipe, we keep this into account in the quantities.
Fresh basil is an essential ingredient in tomato risotto. We add it towards the end to preserve the basil aroma. If you don't have fresh basil or want to add even more aroma, you can use dried oregano or thyme.
You can experiment with other fresh herbs and spices such as parsley, red pepper flakes, and ar nutmeg if you like.
Parmesan cheese adds plenty of umami and flavor to this dish. Whether you are vegetarian or vegan, you can easily replace parm with a vegan cheese alternative. We do this all the time, and the risotto turns out delicious.
Butter makes the tomato risotto rich and gives it that velvety mouth feel. However, if you are vegan, replacing the butter with a plant-based alternative is easy. For example, you can choose vegan butter or high-quality margarine without hydrogenated fats (trans fat) and palm oil.
Alternatively, add good quality extra virgin olive oil to replace the butter.
Note: traditionally, risotto is made with white wine to add acidity to the rice and boost the dish's flavor. Tomato risotto, however, should not have white wine because the tomatoes are already acidic. Therefore, adding white wine to tomato risotto would make the dish overly acidic.
To a large saucepan, add the vegetable broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it simmering throughout the recipe.
To a large skillet, add olive oil and finely chopped onion. Fry the onion on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, then add finely chopped garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium, add the risotto rice, and stir it for 2 minutes until it becomes shiny or translucent.
Turn the heat to medium-low, add two ladlefuls of vegetable broth and the tomato puree, and stir well. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
Cook the risotto on a gentle simmer until al dente (15 to 20 minutes), stirring almost continuously, adding 2 ladlefuls of vegetable broth at a time as soon as the previous broth is absorbed.
Turn the heat off, then add the cheese, butter, and chopped fresh basil leaves.
Stir with the heat off for 2 minutes, and add one more ladleful of vegetable broth if required. Risotto should be very creamy but not too thick or too runny.
Plate the risotto and serve topped with fresh basil leaves and freshly ground black pepper, and if you like, some shaved parmesan on top.
Risotto is a nutritious and fulfilling meal, and you probably won't be able to eat much else after.
We recommend serving it with a light side salad to clean your palate and add some greens to your dinner. You can choose your favorite from these 25 easy sides to serve with risotto.
Alternatively, oven roasted seasonal vegetables are also great as a side dish to tomato risotto. Try our grilled asparagus, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, and roasted peppers.
Tomato risotto with cherry tomatoes
If you want a summer version of this recipe with a lighter feel to it, try making it with cherry tomatoes.
To a large saucepan, add the vegetable broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it simmering throughout the recipe.
To a large skillet, add olive oil and finely chopped onion. Fry the onion on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, then add crushed or finely chopped garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add halved cherry tomatoes and tomato paste, and fry on medium heat for 5 minutes until the tomatoes begin to burst.
Crushed the tomatoes with a fork, add the risotto rice, and 2 ladlefuls of vegetable broth, and keep cooking the rice like in the main tomato risotto recipe.
Tomato and eggplant risotto
This recipe is almost exactly the same as the tomato risotto with tomato puree. All you need to do is cut the eggplant into ¼-inch dice and add it to the pan when you add the tomato puree.
For this recipe, you need a larger pan since the eggplant takes a lot of space.
Tomato risotto with eggplant is creamy, nutritious, and delicious, and it's perfect for a family dinner.
Don't rinse the rice
When you make risotto, you should not rinse the risotto rice. Rinsing it will remove the starch, resulting in a risotto with less flavor and less creamy.
Use rice made for risotto
Arborio, Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, Roma, or Baldo. If you can't find these varieties, go for generic risotto rice. Never use other types of rice to make risotto - like basmati, wild rice, wholegrain, or generic short-grain rice - it won't work.
Add broth and keep stirring
Risotto requires attention. Add broth, two ladles at a time (max), then keep stirring often, almost the whole time. When the broth has almost completely evaporated, add two more ladles. Stirring helps the rice release the starch, which will help with the dish's creaminess.
Also, if you stop stirring, the rice will quickly stick to your pan. If it does, the integrity of the rice grain will be compromised, and the rice won't retain its bite and consistency. It will become mushy and soggy. You'll get rice pudding, not risotto.
Most people believe that the creaminess of risotto is given by adding butter and cheese at the end. And so, when they are close to serving the risotto, and the rice doesn't have the desired creaminess, they add a truckload of butter and cheese to it to make it creamy.
This is not entirely correct. Yes, you'll get some artificial creaminess this way. But the rice will be fat and greasy, and you'll want to nap after eating it. Also, the butter and the cheese will overpower the rice and flavor of the risotto. Of course, if you are trying to make a butter and cheese risotto, then go ahead. But in most cases, butter and cheese are not necessary, or at least not in the quantities people use them these days.
Starch is the star
The real reason why risotto gets creamy is because of its starch. While cooking, the rice releases starch gradually, then when it cools down, it tries to absorb it back, leaving behind a cream. So while cooking, we want to enhance this process rather than just adding butter.
As a first step, getting good risotto rice is most important. Then we need to cook it right. Toasting it. Stirring it. Adding broth a little at a time. If you follow our recipe and tips, you'll get a vegan risotto that is creamier than most.
As a final tip, if you don't find great risotto rice with a naturally high content of starch that will yield the creamiest risotto, then we recommend adding 1 teaspoon of rice starch or corn starch towards the end. Try and let us know what you think.
How to use leftover risotto?
Eat it the day after. The best way is to reheat it in the microwave for a minute or two, add fresh herbs, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Alternatively, make one of these delicious dishes:
Italian rice balls
Italian rice balls are one of the best meals made with leftover risotto. Shape the leftover risotto rice into small balls, coat them in breadcrumbs, deep-fry them or air-fry them, and serve them with our homemade marinara sauce.
This is a delicious recipe you can serve as an appetizer or dinner with a simple side salad.
Risotto Cakes with Salad
Risotto cakes are so delicious! Take the risotto leftovers and shape them into burger-like patties, then bread them with breadcrumbs and shallow-fry or air-fry.
Serve them on top of a simple side salad, and optionally top with our easy marinara sauce.
This is an incredible way to recycle leftover eggplant risotto, and kids will go nuts over this recipe. It's too good!
Make Italian supplí, a popular type of rice balls made in the central regions of Italy with leftover risotto rice. They are similar to arancini but a little simpler to make.
Riso al salto
Transform it into "riso al salto", a traditional north-Italian recipe made with one to two-day-old risotto around the Milan region.
It's basically a large rice cake cooked with olive oil or butter on a pan on very low heat until it gets super crunchy on the outside.
Risotto is not the healthiest dish because of the high content of animal-based saturated fats from butter and cheese. To make risotto healthier, reduce the amount of butter and cheese or replace them with vegan alternatives.
Arborio is one variety of rice you can use to make risotto due to its short and starchy grain. It is the most popular choice to make risotto in Italy and abroad. Other varieties are Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, Roma, and Baldo.
Risotto and vegan risottos can be made with anything you want, just like pasta sauces. We suggest following the seasons and getting creative. In spring, try asparagus risotto. In summer, try lemon risotto. In autumn, try mushroom risotto or pumpkin risotto. In winter, try saffron or this tomato risotto.
Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, Roma, and Baldo are the best choices to make risotto.
No. Jasmine rice is unsuitable for risotto because the grain is too thin and long (it will break while cooking), lacks bite, and doesn't contain enough starch to make the dish creamy.
This creamy tomato risotto is best eaten a few minutes after it's made. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge, in an air-tight container, for up to 3 days, then warm up in the microwave for a minute or two.
If you have a lot of leftover risotto, consider turning it into riso al salto, rice cakes, or Supplì di Riso.
More Risotto Recipes
If you love creamy and hearty risotto, take a look at our best risotto recipes. They're all made with simple ingredients and bold flavor:
- Zucchini risotto with shredded zucchini
- Asparagus risotto: vibrant and green
- Saffron risotto: bright and yellow
- Vegan risotto with 4 different veggies
- Eggplant risotto with tender cubes of eggplant
- Risotto cakes made from leftover risotto
- Rice balls: another idea for using risotto leftovers
You can get more inspiration from our Italian vegetarian recipes, including rice salad and easy pasta.
More Tomato Recipes
Fresh and canned tomatoes bring aromatic flavor to many Italian dishes. Take your pick at these tomato recipes for an authentic Italian meal:
For many more dinner ideas, check out our mains category page.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 cups risotto rice arborio or carnaroli variety
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 24 ouces tomato passata or 4 cups of halved cherry tomatoes + 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 15 leaves basil
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese or vegan cheese
- To a large saucepan, add the vegetable broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it simmering throughout the recipe.To a large skillet, add olive oil and finely chopped onion. Fry the onion on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, then add finely chopped garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium, add the risotto rice, and stir it for 2 minutes until it becomes shiny or translucent.
- Turn the heat to medium-low, add two ladlefuls of vegetable broth and the tomato puree, and stir well. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
- Cook the risotto on a gentle simmer until al dente (15 to 20 minutes), stirring almost continuously, adding 2 ladlefuls of vegetable broth at a time as soon as the previous broth is absorbed.
- Turn the heat off, then add the cheese, butter, and chopped fresh basil leaves.
- Stir with the heat off for 2 minutes, and add one more ladleful of vegetable broth if required. Risotto should be very creamy but not too thick or too runny.
- Plate the risotto and serve topped with fresh basil leaves and freshly ground black pepper, and if you like, some shaved parmesan or vegan cheese on top.
If you like this tomato risotto, you might also like:
This recipe asks for vegan cheese, what cheese do you recommend?
Ciao Rosa, I use “violife grated cheese” that should be available in most countries (I don’t know where are live but here’s my list of other favorite brands): follow your heart, miyokos, so delicious and daya. If you’re in Europe I highly recommend “Simply V”. I hope that helps, have a wonderful day! Nico