Saint Valentine Arrives Early: Beet Risotto

I don’t expect much for Valentine’s Day.  I consider it a Hallmark-promulgated reason to celebrate relationships (or being single) while spending needless amounts of money on flowers and chocolates.  Not that I don’t love flowers and chocolates, I just don’t think we need a designated day of the year to command some romance.

J and I were planning to celebrate a bit early this year, tonight at James.  But the tyrannical snow has once again confined us to a two block radius.  I generally prefer not to go out to eat on holidays; I find the restaurants in the city too crowded and the service too rushed.  Regardless of our postponed restaurant plans, I still managed to find away to ring in this holiday early – Beet Risotto.

Nothing says lovin’ like a food drenched in the deep red-hued beet.

I had been itching to tackle risotto again since Cooking Class and my recent stock creation.  With a somewhat limited

Beets and Red Onions

supply of local, seasonal foods with the snowstorm last weekend, I did a search on “beets” and “risotto” and actually came up with quite a few recipes.  Hale Google.  One that struck me as feasible was from Food & Wine magazine’s web site.

Beet Risotto

While the final product came out looking less than appetizing, it was still savory and warm while tasting nothing like beets.  Considering it was a lot of work to peel and chop them, I would have liked to have tasted them.  This recipe is quite a labor of love considering all the work to prepare the vegetables and stir the risotto for a half hour — a perfect way to ring in Hallmark’s favorite time of year… should you choose to do so.  (Recipe notes below, followed by a small tribute to Saint Valentine.)

Beet Risotto

* CSA Share        ** Farmer’s Market


  • 5 cups chicken stock plus two cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter *
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion,   finely chopped *
  • 3 small beets, peeled and coarsely chopped *
  • 3 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese


  1. In a saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm.
  2. In a medium sauce pan or enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion and cook over

    The recipe on the stove

    moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes.

  3. Add the shredded beets and cook, stirring, until the pan is dry, 12 minutes.  Spoon half of the beets into a small bowl.
  4. Add the rice to the pan or casserole and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the warm stock to the rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente and a thick sauce forms, about 25 minutes or so. Stir in the cooked beets and cheese. Cook, stirring, until heated through.
  5. If the risotto is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water if the risotto is too thick. Spoon the risotto into bowls and serve.

Recipe notes/substitutions:

  • The original recipe calls for 7 cups chicken stock or 3 1/2 cups low-sodium broth mixed with 3 1/2 cups of water.  I had about 5 cups of homemade chicken stock and used 2 cups or so more of water for the rest of the liquid.  This could be the reason J told me it was a bit bland (so much for romance).
  • I decreased the butter by one tablespoon and used 3 small beets for 2 large.  Be prepared to get your hands dirty if you decide to chop the beets as I did.  The recipe calls for coarsely shredded, but I chopped because I find it enjoyable after a long day at work.
  • I substituted the 1 1/2 cups pecorino cheese with 1 cup Parmesan cheese.  Still thought the final product was cheesy enough.
  • The original recipe also calls for a garnish of beets and poppy seeds.  I’m not really a garnish gal.  Especially when it’s just  me and J at the table… maybe if it actually WAS Valentine’s Day…

Lastly, I’ll take this post as an opportunity to restore my limited knowledge on historic religious references.  Valentine’s Day is a tribute to Saint Valentine, a priest who performed secret marriages for Roman soldiers against the Emperor’s dictate.  Saint Valentine was eventually beheaded (on February 14) for defying the Emperor’s rule.  He lived his life knowing that the threat of his actions could lead to his demise.  Love in the face of adversity and tyranny – that is the reason for Valentine’s Day.


4 responses to “Saint Valentine Arrives Early: Beet Risotto

  1. ok, you totally beet me to it!! I am blogging about beets for Valentine’s also. Nice job and I’d love to try this risotto. And you wrote the entire post so well.

  2. Thanks, Tammy! Can’t wait to read your post on beets – I have two left to use 🙂

  3. Hey, I came across your blog when I was looking back on my own beet risotto entry, and I thought I’d point you to this recipe. The way the beets are prepared makes them taste a bit more like beets, and you get a great color, and it’s a bit easier!

    Also, I recommend doing this (making Arancini di Riso) every time you have risotto leftovers. They’re amazing!

    🙂 -cat

    • Hi Cat, thanks for finding my blog! The idea to use beer instead of wine/stock is very novel, I imagine it added a very hearty taste. Great recipe for leftovers too, I was debating about sauteing a risotto-pancake with similar ingredients but never got around to it :-(. Next time!

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