Oven baked zucchini risotto – an old reliable standby

I was in fine form this week… Two evenings i have headed to the kitchen to make dinner only to realise I had forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer.

It is such a bad habit of mine! – leaving me to scramble through the fridge and pantry to find an alternative dinner.

Sure – I could just head to the shops and buy some meat but having exhausted the food budget for the week already i opt for the mad hunt through the pantry instead.

What is more, between you and me, a supermarket in the afternoon with two kids is my least favourite past time and i – will – avoid – at – all – cost.

So it is time to make use of any staples I have laying about.

A rummage through the fridge revealed a few old zucchini’s (not yet slimy – bonus!) and a red onion.
With that, I immediately know what I am cooking – a dish we love but have not had for a while now.

Oven Baked Zucchini Risotto

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This recipe comes from a Bill Granger cookbook and it is a recipe I had never made until I was faced with a similar desperate situation in the past. It’s few ingredients falsely led me to believe it would be a boring, bland dish. OH ….how wrong i was..

So let me set the record straight.

1. This dinner is full of flavour. Master 5 years calls it ‘pizza rice’ because it tastes a little like a great pizza

2. It requires no meat – perfect for when you’re on a tight budget, when you cannot manage to remember to defrost the meat or just want a meat free meal.

3. It requires almost no chopping – apart from the onion and zucchini’s

4. It requires no stirring – just put it together and throw it in the oven ….. 30 minutes later dinner is ready.

And finally – it really is good. Really! Give it a go.

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Once you have chopped the onion (the original recipe uses a brown onion – my fridge only offered a red onion) , sauté in a little olive oil with a tsp of salt.

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Once the onion is soft, add the arborio rice and give a quick stir

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Add the stock ( the recipe says you can even use water if you want – we have tried this but it is not as flavoursome) tinned tomatoes, zucchini and Parmesan cheese. Give a stir together, put a lid on the pot and place in a hot oven for 30 minutes.

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Thats is it. Once it is out from the oven, I load the big souls serve with a heap of cracked pepper (it tastes great with the pepper) some parsley and more Parmesan cheese

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And for the littlest soul, just some Parmesan cheese.

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It is such a basic, easy meal. And always yum.
The verdict?
Miss 18 months loved it, and dug in a rapid speed (not a usual occurrence).

So quick and astounding were her efforts that Master 5 years got a little disgruntled at his new eating rival and the praise she was receiving. Tears soon flowed as he did not win the ‘dinner race’. We really need to work on the whole ‘losing’ and ‘rivalry’ thing but that’s a whole other story….

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Master 5 years turbulent emotions meant he could not eat any more dinner. The sad zucchini’s were left to the side and even the coveted ‘pizza rice’ was left. Anyway, he does usually eat it and eat well – so I let this one slide.

Hope you enjoy it too. It really is a great recipe to keep up your sleeve.

Oven baked zucchini risotto

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup arborio rice
11/2 cups chicken stock or water
400 g can chopped tomatoes
2 large zucchini, finely sliced
60 g grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Extra Parmesan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 200 degree celsius. Grab a large ovenproof dish (with a lid) and place over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion and the sea salt for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the arborio rice to the dish and stir for another minute.

Add the stock or water and the chopped tomatoes and bring to simmering point. Add the zucchini and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Stir together and cover the dish and bake the risotto for 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Scatter parsley over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and grind liberal amounts of black cracked pepper is desired.

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