This colorful shrimp risotto gets its wonderful aroma from fennel, garlic, and lemon. This is an elegant dish that’s quick enough to pull together on a weeknight!
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Don’t you love it when you’ve got a craving for a specific dish and you just happen to have all the ingredients on hand to make it, like, now? This often happens to me with risotto, because I looooove risotto. I basically make it once a week, so I keep the following essential ingredients on hand at all times:
With these three crucial risotto ingredients on hand, I can make a delicious risotto with whatever I have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Got a head of cauliflower? Quickly broil the florets, then add lots of parmesan and some chili flakes, and you’ll end up with a comforting dish that would give the best mac & cheeses of the world a run for their money in terms of deliciousness.
Got a big bunch of kale? Turn it into a colorful pesto, then swirl it into a cheesy risotto and top with walnuts for some crunch.
Lucky enough to have a basket of fresh, sweet, green peas on hand? Showcase them in a deliciously vegetarian green pea risotto, or combine them with juicy shrimp to create a colorful dish that’s quick and easy enough to be pulled together on a weeknight.
The flavors in this shrimp risotto get an aromatic boost from fennel seeds, garlic, and lemon, while the green peas add a pop of color! The sprinkle of dill makes the dish taste super fresh. This risotto comes together in a snap, especially if you happen to have cooked shrimp and shelled peas in the freezer, but it offers surprisingly complex flavors and an irresistible combination of textures—from the tender shrimp, to the slightly crunchy peas, to the cheesy, gooey rice.
This shrimp risotto is undoubtedly elegant enough to be served to company, but I truly encourage you to make it on a weeknight. This dish might just be the most delicious reward after a long day at the office—or wherever work is for you. You deserve it!
As is often the case with simple, Italian-inspired dishes, using the very best ingredients you can get your hands on or afford makes the biggest difference in terms of the flavor of your final dish. In this shrimp risotto, I encourage you to try to find homemade fish or seafood stock at your local fishmonger, they often keep it in the freezer section. Homemade stock will impart a milder flavor to the risotto instead of stealing the spotlight, which I find canned fish or seafood stock tends to do. If you do use canned stock, I recommend diluting it 2/3 stock to 1/3 water. This will soften the flavors and leave centerstage to your main risotto ingredients.
Also, use quality risotto rice for the creamiest texture—Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano are all good picks. Finally, make sure to hunt down Pecorino Romano cheese for this recipe: it’s a super flavorful cheese and you need just a bit to round up the delicious aromas of this shrimp risotto.
Italians often say cheese should never touch seafood dishes. In Italy, for example, you will never be served cheese over seafood pasta. In this shrimp risotto, though, I think a little Pecorino-Romano cheese adds a truly lovely creaminess to the dish, and some depth of flavor too. I think it’s worth bending the rule here, but in the end, it’s your choice! This shrimp risotto would also be perfectly delicious sans cheese.
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is often used in risotto recipes, but in shrimp risotto, I like to use Pecorino Romano cheese instead. Pecorino Romano is a hard Italian cheese made with sheep’s milk. It has a sharp, slightly peppery flavor and it’s super aromatic, which means it’s just the thing to balance out the mild, sweet flavor of shrimp and peas. Be aware that Pecorino Romano is quite salty, in fact, it’s saltier than Parmigiano-Reggiano, so you’ll need to use less to provide flavor and creaminess to the dish. Make sure to wait until you’ve stirred in the Pecorino Romano cheese into the risotto before adding any salt to the recipe; depending on the cheese, you might not need to season the risotto at all.
Photo: Consorzio per la tutela de Pecorino Romano
This shrimp risotto comes together in a flash when you use precooked, frozen shrimp. I like to use tiny Northern shrimp (also called Northern prawns) because they’re tiny and sweet and defrost in no time. You can also use pink shrimp, which exist in many different sizes. Tiny pink shrimp (61 to 70 count per pound) are handy because they, too, defrost very quickly, but you can use larger shrimp and cut them into bite sizes before you stir them into the risotto.
Of course, you can also use raw shrimp: simply peel them and sauté them in a bit of butter for a couple of minutes before adding them to the risotto. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp because the heat from the risotto will cook them further.
Most risotto recipes serve 4 to 6, with ingredient quantities that are hard to split into halves or thirds. This has always annoyed me because I usually make risotto for 2 people. So I’m writing all my risotto recipes to serve 2, which means the math is easier to scale up the ingredients to serve 4 or 6 guests. Note that this shrimp risotto recipe produces a generous 2-serving yield—you could stretch it to 3 servings if this dish is part of a more elaborate menu that includes appetizers and sides.
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