Artichoke risotto with lemon-herb pesto

Artichoke risotto with lemon-herb pesto

Whenever I trim a fresh artichoke, my thoughts always drift to Pablo Neruda’s poem, Ode to the Artichoke. And every time I cannot help but smile that such a deliciously wonderful poem was dedicated to a vegetable that looks so unwelcoming.

“Dressed as a warrior, burnished like a pomegranate, proud…” writes Neruda. Indeed, this spiky-green veggie with its formidable pointy leaves looks as intimidating as a warrior in full garb!

With a little courage, though, and a bit of skill, you can unearth its delectable treasure  — “scale by scale we undress its delight and we eat the peaceful flesh of its green heart.” Thus ends the life of the artichoke, and Neruda’s poem.

I must confess that I’ve trimmed many an artichoke in my day, and the task, if not easy, has become at least comfortable. So I’ve made a video of today’s recipe showing every step of the process. And if you’ve never trimmed a fresh artichoke before I hope it will inspire you to give it a try!

Artichokes are in season twice a year: in the spring (March through May) and again in the fall. Although you can find them in grocery stores almost any time of the year, they are the freshest and therefore the most flavorful during peak season.

Since I’m such a fan of artichokes, I’ve created many recipes with them. But in the fall I especially love making artichoke risotto. The creaminess of the rice is a perfect contrast to the slightly crunchy texture of the artichoke heart. Once the risotto is done, I stir in a light lemon-herb pesto, and… it’s nothing short of a flavor bomb!

One thing’s for sure: I could eat this risotto every day until artichoke season is over…

Food & wine pairing: Austria, Grüner Veltliner with artichoke risotto

White wine iconA premium Grüner Veltliner from Austria is a beautiful companion to this risotto. Well made Grüner Veltliners are extremely aromatic with delicious stone fruit and citrus notes along with hints of herbaceousness. As an alternative, you could pour an Arneis from Piedmont aged in stainless steel. This little known white grape from northwest Italy boasts good acidity, wonderful minerality, enticing aromas of stone fruit and almonds and delicate floral notes.

Two artichokes

Artichoke risotto with lemon-herb pesto

serves 4
active time: 1 hr 15 min

For the pesto

  1. 1 small bunch fresh basil (2 oz) (55 g) – leaves removed from stems
  2. 6 sprigs fresh Italian parsley – stems removed
  3. 1 large garlic clove – skinned and left whole
  4. 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane grater)
  5. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  6. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the risotto

  1. 1 lemon – juiced
  2. 3 large artichokes
  3. 3 1/2 cups spring water
  4. 3 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  6. 1 medium red onion – skinned, quartered and finely sliced
  7. 2 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
  8. 1 cup dry white wine
  9. 1 cup Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio rice
  10. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  11. freshly ground black pepper to taste
  12. 1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
  13. 1/3 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan
  1. extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  2. chive tips as garnish

  1. Step 1: For the pesto – Place the basil leaves, Italian parsley, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process at high speed until it forms a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, once or twice. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Step 2: For the artichokes – Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Trim the artichokes by bending back the outer leaves until they snap off close to the base. Repeat until all the green leaves are gone, leaving the tender yellow-green inner leaves attached to the heart. Cut 2″ of the tops so that only the yellow part of the leaves are left. Cut the stalk at the base of the artichoke. Using a vegetable hand-peeler, peel any green part around the heart. Keep dipping the artichokes in the lemon-water bath as you work to prevent them from browning. Quarter the artichokes, remove the chokes and then cut in 1/4″ slices. Place in the lemon-water bath. Peel the stalks with the vegetable hand-peeler to remove all green parts. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut in 1/4″ slices and place them in the lemon-water bath. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Step 3: For the broth – Place the spring water and vegetable stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and keep on the stove near the risotto pan.
  4. Step 4: For the risotto – Heat a wide heavy-bottomed sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and red onion, stir well and sauté for 3 minutes until wilted. Drain the artichoke slices, shake off any excess water and add them to the pan. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until the artichokes are golden, stirring only occasionally. Add the garlic and white wine and continue sautéing until the wine has reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 1 minute until the rice becomes translucent at the edges, stirring constantly.
  5. Cook’s note: If you are making this recipe ahead of time, take the pan off the heat at this time until ready to continue the risotto. When you are ready to proceed, reheat the risotto at medium heat and proceed as below.
  6. Step 5: Reduce heat to medium to medium-high. Add a scoop of the broth to the rice using a ladle and simmer, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed. You may have to adjust the heat from time to time so that the risotto is always at a good simmer, but doesn’t stick to the pot. Add another ladle of broth and continue stirring, repeating the process until the rice is creamy but still al dente. This will take about 20 minutes.
  7. Cook’s note: You can use 5 to 6 cups of liquid depending on the rice you use, and whether you like a drier risotto. The more liquid you use, the wetter your risotto will be.
  8. Step 6: Add the butter and parmesan and stir continuously to make the consistency of the risotto softer and creamier. As soon as the butter is melted, turn off the heat and stir in the pesto. Spoon the risotto into pasta bowls. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Garnish with chive tips and serve immediately.

Artichoke risotto with lemon-herb pesto

main course, risotto, artichoke


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  3. Vivianne this really sounds delicious. I love the poetic description of the artichoke. I am not at all intimidated by the artichoke for me it is the making of risotto. Practice. Wonderful recipe.

    • Suzi, the most important think about making risotto is to not over-cook it. Most people make that mistake. Think of it as pasta… You want it “al dente”, risotto is the same. Apart from that, it’s easy… And have fun stirring!

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  7. Viviane, thanks for sharing this recipe with me on Twitter. The segment on preparing the artichokes for cooking is immensely helpful, I’m going to give this a try this weekend!

  8. I’m so excited that artichoke season is right around the corner. I just got comfortable working with fresh ones last year and I can’t wait to try again!

  9. Viviane BRAVO!!! what a wonderful instructional video 🙂 I’ve always wanted to make risotto and now thanks to you I know how. I look forward to watching more, you are great!

  10. Great recipe. I made it as directed, and it was excellent. But the cutting up the artichokes took the most amount of time (nor was it meditative lol). I’m on the fence next time whether I go w/ canned ones instead…

    • Oh Spanky! You are the one who made me laugh out loud! Thank you for your comment!

      First of all I am very glad you tried the recipe as directed and liked it! That is a wonderful thing – so few people ever do that…

      Secondly, you can try it with canned artichokes but you will realize that the flavor simply doesn’t even come close to the fresh kind… (if you do, make sure you add them at the end of the recipe, not at the beginning as for the fresh ones)

      My advise, prepare artichokes everyday until is becomes meditative… A great practice for your mind and your fingers with maximum benefit to your taste buds… 🙂

  11. I love risotto…will try to make it!

  12. Shelly Huang

    Looks absolutely delicious! I usually find risottos too creamy and heavy for me, but the acidity of your lemon herb pesto must have balanced it out really well!

  13. A big thank you to you all for your comments! I am so glad you are all artichokes fans!!!

    Divina, if you use canned artichokes for this recipe, make sure you add them to the risotto at the end, otherwise they will completely disintegrate. And I would recommend the ones packed in oil. They are a bit more flavorful.

  14. Wow, this is such a great recipe – so healthy as well, fun to make and brilliant for endurance and stamina for any sporting enthusiasts out there.

  15. They look absolutely delicious. The only choice I have is to use canned artichokes though.

  16. that looks really gorgeous! I love how you plated the dish. The risotto sounds very tasty too

  17. Love it! We HEART aritchoke around here, but haven’t had them since moving to Costa Rica :o( We’ve had to settle with artichoke hearts, but better that then nothing! Thanks for the tips and instructions… if and when we get some.. I must try this :o)

  18. I find breaking down artichokes to be a deeply meditative process. Normally I don’t like repetitive tasks like that, but for some reason I find those spiny guys to be relaxing. We are lucky to have gotten some artichokes in our last CSA box. My husband doesn’t love them so I have been trying to think of what to make with them – I think he’ll like this.

  19. fabulous instructional video! it’s nice to see something a little more complex demonstrated. the risotto looks lovely! very well done.

  20. Love artichokes! Thanks for the great tips and instructions–

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