Strike the perfect balance of tomato flavor in this Risotto Al Pomodoro with just the right amount of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. This classic Italian dish is good on its own or as a side dish for fish, meat, or vegetables
Risotto Al pomodoro, or tomato risotto is a vibrant and comforting dish with the flavors of fresh ripe tomatoes.
Recipe tips and improvements
I had to test and tweak the recipe quite a few times to make it perfect.
Here are some possible challenges and ways (tips) overcome them while making the dish:
- Time: be prepared to have at least 20-30 minutes of constant attention, as risotto needs non-stop stirring to achieve the right balance of creaminess and al-dente.
- Tomato flavor balance: it was hard to achieve the right tomato balance by using only fresh tomatoes. Tomato paste made it just right. Without it, the risotto is too sour (if you add too many tomatoes) or has no desirable tomato flavor at all (if you add too little).
- Consistency: perfectly cooked risotto rice is creamy with a pleasant bite in the middle. Due to the high amount of starch, risotto rice should remain slightly al dente in the middle.
- Choice of risotto rice: to achieve the right consistency, you need to pick the right type of rice and be aware of different cooking times. I recommend choosing Arborio or Carnaroli. Arborio cooks a little bit faster but Carnaroli holds the shape better.
Fresh, canned tomatoes or tomato paste?
I used ripe fresh tomatoes and a small amount of tomato paste to make the best tasting risotto al pomodoro.
Adding tomato paste to risotto will intensify the tomato flavor in the dish.
If you use just tomatoes, it might not be enough. And if you add too much of tomatoes the dish might be too sour.
The tomato paste will also add a bright red color.
I insist on sauteing the tomato paste with the dry risotto rice and onions before adding fresh tomatoes and later the broth for taking away the tomato paste bitterness and for a more intense flavor.
If the tomatoes are not in season, the next best option is ¾ cup of strained tomatoes (passata) and the tomato paste.
Italian Passata is made from one ingredient - Italian tomatoes. It is the best substitute for fresh pureed tomatoes.
You can also use a ¾ cup of plain tomato sauce, and whole canned tomatoes (drained, without the skin).
When using canned tomatoes, make sure to add not more than 1 cup, as it may make the dish sour, especially if it has added citric acid or vinegar.
If that happens, you can add about ½ teaspoon of sugar to balance it out.
The ingredients quantities are in the recipe card below.
- Risotto rice - short grain type of trice that is high in starch. The most popular ones in the US are Arborio or Carnaroli.
- Fresh tomatoes - I used vine-ripes tomatoes. Heirloom or Roma tomatoes are also great for pureeing or grating.
- Tomato paste - you can skip it, but it adds depth of flavor and beautiful color.
- Onion - I used yellow onion this time. You can also use shallot. It has a milder flavor compared to onions.
- Wine - I did use any wine for this recipe. If you decide to add some, use about ¼ cup of any dry white wine.
- Broth - I used low-sodium chicken broth. If you want to make this dish vegetarian, use vegetable stock.
- Grated Parmesan and butter - are added at the end to make the risotto creamier and to balance the tomato acidity.
- Salt and pepper - I add both at the end to taste. The broth already contains salt, so it is important to taste the final product before adding more salt.
How to make it
Make a tomato puree. You can use a blender or food processor, but I will show you how to use your grater box for making the perfect puree without the skin.
If I have nothing else to process in my food processor, I prefer the grater box as it is easier to wash.
Rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Slice off a small piece from any side of the tomato. Now, the tomato won't slip while you grating it.
Place the grater box in a shallow dish to catch all the juices. Place the tomato against the grater (fine or coarse side) and start grating it using gentle pressure. Move the tomato up and down, allowing the flesh to turn into a puree, while the whole skin remains in your hand.
Discard the skin and repeat the process with the second tomato. Set pureed tomatoes to a side.
You will need about ¾ cup of pureed tomatoes.
Heat the broth. In a saucepan, heat the chicken or vegetable broth over medium heat. Keep it simmering during the whole cooking process.
Saute. In a wide skillet or a large pot, heat olive oil. Add diced onions and saute them for about 2-3 minutes until translucent, but not browned.
Add rice. Now, add the risotto rice and toast it for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring it frequently. Add tomato paste, while keeping the stirring process. Let the tomato paste coat the rice and briefly fry it for a few minutes.
Add tomato paste. Add 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste and continue stirring to coat the grains, frying the tomato paste briefly for about 1 minute over medium heat.
Pour grated tomatoes. Now, add grated tomatoes to the pot and bring it to a gentle simmer. Let half of the sauce absorb and evaporate.
If you are using dry wine, add it after the sauce and also let it evaporate.
Add the broth. Begin adding hot broth, one full ladle at a time. Stir the rice continuously, allowing the broth absorb before adding more.
Continue the process of adding the liquid and stirring the rice over high-medium heat until you use all 4-5 cup of the broth.
The rice is cooked when it becomes creamy, but still has a bite in the middle.
The whole process will take about 25-30 minutes. Always taste the rice to make sure its cooked.
Add butter and cheese. Once the risotto is cooked, take it off the heat immediately. Stir in some butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Taste the risotto and add some salt, pepper to taste. And enjoy!
How to store risotto
Risotto like any other rice dish is the best when enjoyed right away. But if you happened to have any leftovers, they will stay fresh in the fridge for about 3 days.
Among the few ways you can reheat risotto - a stove top is the best option.
Use about ¼ cup of water or broth for 1 cup of cold risotto. Bring the liquid to a boil in a small saucepan, add cold risotto, and heat it cover over low heat until steaming hot.
You can also add a little bit of butter and Parmesan cheese to refresh the taste.
Frequently asked questions
"Pomodoro" is the Italian word for "tomato". It is often used to refer to recipes that feature tomatoes as the main ingredient or flavor.
The best type for risotto is short-grain rice with a high starch content. Arborio and Carnaroli are the most widely available and commonly used types of rice for making risotto.
Certainly, you can omit the wine from the recipe. I make risotto without wine quite often. Make sure to use flavorful chicken or vegetable broth to enhance the dish.
More risotto recipes
Risotto Al Pomodoro (Tomato Risotto)
- 1 white and tall pan or a large pot
- 1 saucepan
- 1 Box grater
- 1 ladle
- 1 cup Arborio rice or other risotto short grain rice
- 2 medium fresh tomatoes, ¾ cup grated or ¾ cup of passata
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- to taste salt and pepper
- In a sauce pan, heat the chicken broth over medium heat. Keep it simmering on low while you prepare risotto.
- Place the box grater in a shallow dish. Slice off a small piece from the side of the tomato and grate it using a box grater, leaving the skin in your hand. Repeat with the second tomato. Discard the skin. Set pureed tomatoes aside.
- In a large wide pan or a pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and saute until the onion becomes translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pan and toast it for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste and continue stirring to coat the grains.
- Pour the pureed tomatoes with all the juices. Simmer until the liquid is reduced in half, stirring frequently. Add wine ( if using) and let it evaporate.
- Begin adding simmering broth, one full ladle at a time. Stir the rice continuously, allowing the broth absorb before adding more. Continue the process of adding the liquid and stirring the rice over high-medium heat until you use all 4-5 cup of the broth. The rice is cooked when it becomes creamy, but still has a bite in the middle. It should take 25-30 minutes.
- Take it off the heat immediately when the rice is cooked though but still al dente.
- Stir in ¼ cup of grated Parmesan and 2 Tablespoon of butter. Taste the risotto and add salt/pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!