Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

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This easy recipe for cheesy zucchini pesto risotto will quickly become a dinner time favourite! Imagine the flavours of creamy alfredo sauce and basil pesto, combined to create a creamy, earthy pasta sauce, then add some fresh, vitamin-rich zucchini for a boost of nutrition.

This light and healthy risotto is a healthy meal option for families, especially if you have some picky toddlers in the house! I’m not keen on regularly sneaking veggies into my kid’s meals however, sometimes a little white lie in the kitchen is in order.

My children have always eaten their veggies (or at least tasted them), yet as open-minded as they are, they sill have their phases when they swear off a particular vegetable-in this case, zucchini!

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

This morning after my kids and I picked some fresh zucchini from our garden, I was inspired to create a recipe with zucchini as the star ingredient.

Initially, I planned on making a frittata (knowing very well that my kids aren’t too keen on eggs at the moment). Instead, I whipped up this simple recipe in the hopes that I could create a meal that my kids would enjoy too.

Zucchini has such a mild flavour so it worked well in this recipe, plus it’s flavour is somewhat overpowered by the rich, creamy cheese, salty Parmesan, and earthy basil. It can be compared to a rich alfredo sauce, yet lighter and obviously healthier than the traditional cream sauce, plus it packs a nutritional punch from the vitamin C-rich zucchini.

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

Needless to say, my effort was not in vain! My kids devoured this…and asked for seconds! Rice was on the menu today however, this sauce would be an ideal condiment for pasta, as a substitute for traditional tomato sauce.

This creamy zucchini pesto risotto is ideal for babies 6+months thanks to it’s mild flavours and simple ingredients. The sauce can be prepared in bulk and stored in baby cubes in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

If you try this recipe (and love it!) be sure to snap a pic and tag me on Instagram with #bitesforfoodies so I can see your creation!

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Ingredients:

Yields: about 2 1/2 cups
1 cup arborio rice
2 oz Laughing Cow or other soft cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely sliced
4-5 basil leaves
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup rice cooking water
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium frying pan on medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the sliced zucchini and sautee for 5-7 minutes or until translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.

In the meantime, cook the rice for 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions to ensure it remains al dente. Before draining the rice, set aside about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

Combine the zucchini with the remaining ingredients and 1/4 cup of the rice cooking water in a small food processor. Puree until smooth and creamy. If desired, add more cooking water until you get the desired consistency.

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

After draining the rice (avoid rinsing it since this washes away all of the starches which thicken the risotto) return to the pot, add the zucchini pesto, and heat through on low heat for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsely, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cheesy Zucchini Pesto Risotto

  • Ourfamilyworld

    I haven’t tried making Risotto. This one looks delicious and easy to make. I can’t wait to try this.

    • Traditional risotto is not as difficult to make as it seems. This risotto is not traditional because the rice is cooked separately…which also means it’s quicker and easier to prepare :-)

  • Mykidsguide

    That looks so delicious! Zucchine and pesto sounds like a great combo. I need to try this.

    • Thank you…I love zucchini and pesto together. Whenever I make a zucchini frittata I like to mix in a spoonful of pesto too!

  • Jeanette

    Very interesting recipe I love pesto and zucchini so I am betting that I wold love this! I will have to try it this weekend!

  • Alli Smith

    I never tire of zucchini! I don’t think I’ve ever had it in a pesto risotto before. Looks yummy to me. I’m with your kids – not a big fan of eggs at the moment. :)

  • chubskulit

    We love zucchini dishes but I haven’t prepared it this way so thank you for sharing. Looks so yummy!

    • I could eat zucchini every day…especially during the summer when it comes from our garden!

  • @weareofficially

    I’ve heard and seen risotto being made (esp in hell’s kitchen) but I have not actually tried it. Yes, that’s a perfect way to sneak in some veggies to kid’s meal. I am just glad I don’t have to do it anymore. :D My daughter is now okay with greens! Hooray! This looks interesting but I am on a milk-free diet at the moment. Is there any substitute to the soft cheese?

    • I mentioned in another comment that Gordon wouldn’t like this recipe because it’s not runny and creamy, lol! I prefer it cooked like this…besides, its not a traditional recipe for risotto (which is cooked in one pan). How old is your daughter? My kids have their moments but usually eat everything. I can’t wait for the day when I can make meals without having to wonder if they’ll eat them or not!!

    • Missed that last part…you could just omit it altogether!

  • I love zucchini, cheese and pesto!!! What a great dish!

  • rika agustini

    I love Zucchini! This is a perfect meal for family with kids!

  • Oh that is an awesome idea. I can see myself having some of this for a healthy lunch.

  • Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    This recipe looks so delicious! I love zucchini with cheese.

  • Angela Weight

    This looks delicious! And like something my picky boys might actually eat…if I can hide the zucchini.

    • The definitely goes unnoticed! It’s so soft that it purees instantly without any lumps!

  • I love that I can sneaky in some veggies to this rice side dish! My kids would totally fall for “Hulk” rice – if they only knew it had veggies! Ha ha can’t wait to try this!

  • I’ve never had zucchini or risotto. Everything I hear risotto I think about Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s kitchen.

    • Me too!! Lol! Funny thing is, I actually prefer my rice on the drier side…and not too creamy and runny. Gordon would not like this recipe, lol!

  • I love all of these ingredients. This is sure to be a huge hit in my household!

  • Michele E Dickerson

    Wow! That dish looks delicious! Can’t wait to try out your recipe

  • I love risotto and so do the kids! I think I could sneak these veggies in for them.

    • I don’t often sneak veggies into my kid’s meals but when they get into their moods I feel obliged too! These easiest way for me is to puree them in a pasta sauce!

  • Digna Dreibelbis

    This looks delicious. I have yet to have risotto!

  • Emily

    Ooo this looks and sounds so good! Great recipe.

  • Nickida Stephens

    What a great recipe. Would have never thought to make this for my kids. I love your recipes.

  • Ann Bacciaglia

    This looks like a delicious recipe. I will have to get the ingredients i need to make this.

    • Thanks! The nice thing is most people will likely have these ingredients on hand!

  • This sounds delicious recipe. I love that you have hidden veggies in the dish too. I might have to give it a try.

    • I ate this myself…I just set aside some zucchini and added them to the rice instead of pureeing them!

  • I love the flavor that zucchini absorbs when it is cooked with other things. This looks like a recipe that I would like.