baked zucchini and pea risotto

We can be a bit repetivitive in the kitchen, stuck in a certain way of thinking. So when a recipe comes along and we get an "aha" moment realizing that we can do something we had never imagined before, it is exciting. Risotto is one of our favorite foods, but we never serve it to nonfamily guests because it needs some extended care before serving, which competes with the dinner guest care duty cycle. Baked risotto allows a disconnect between the prep and the delivery. Why didn't we think of that before? [Rhetorical question.]

So Facebook has a way of parading fascinating food along our timelines these days. This one came from an Italian chef post that shouted serious comfort food, in a way that mac and cheese says it in American. Our rendition was a serendipitous relaxation of the classic "timballo di riso" or "sformato di riso" which is supposed to retain its shape when released from its "mold". Ours slumps, still got that flowing component goin' on, i.e., is a way of delivering creamy risotto with time release built in. Or with a bit less moisture, a traditional solid cuttable rice timballo.

These days Google Chrome will translate webpages pretty well to get a first draft, but some adjustments need to be incorporated into the finished product. For the first time we see the abbreviation "q.b." = "quanto basta" which in recipe lingo is perhaps "as needed". And one English "zucchini" is a "zucchina" in Italian (feminine) and more than one are "zucchine", not zucchini. There must be a good story about this change of spelling crossing the ocean. We did not carefully prepare the execution of this recipe, so we were caught without green onions, but a leek is basically an oversized green onion, so we made the substitution. And no mozzarella either, so we put together 325 g (using digital our kitchen scale) of little cubes of left over pecorino toscano and fontina, both nice melting cheeses, and some harder gruyere (which we grated and turns somewhat stringy when melted). The bechamel sauce is a side operation, useful for helping jumpstart the melting of the central cheese layer. To make up the target weight we used gruyere, which we grated and just incorporated into the risotto mixture before assembly together with the parmigiano.

The result was rich and creamy and tasty. Worth repeating. Stiff or not.


Italian ingredients   English equivalent   Quantity
450 g. riso per risotti   arborio rice, or better risotto rice   2 c (425g)
3 zucchine medium zucchini 3
200 g. piselli (vanno bene anche surgelati)   peas, fresh or frozen   1 c
2 cipollotti freschi   fresh green onions, we used a leek   2 or 1
Brodo di verdure q.b.   vegetable broth   1 cube
Mezzo bicchiere di vino bianco   white wine   1/2 c
20 g. burro   butter   2 T
1 bicchiere di latte   milk   1 c
300 g. mozzarella   mozzarella, or melting cheeses   12 oz
300 ml. besciamella   bechamel sauce   1 1/2 c
80 g. formaggio grattugiato   parmigiano reggiano   2/3 c + 1/2 c
Sale e pepe q.b.   salt and freshly ground pepper   to taste
Olio EVO q.b.   extra virgin olive oil   2-3 T
Pangrattato q.b.   bread crumbs   1/3 c


  1. Prep the zucchini (chop into small pieces) and green onions/leek (finely chopped).
  2. Cut up your easily melting cheese into small cubes (3/16 in).
  3. Start a tea kettle of water boiling for the risotto broth component (water plus veggie broth cube).
  4. Begin the risotto process by sauteeing the green onions/leek in olive oil.
  5. After softened toss in the zucchini and peas if fresh (otherwise dump frozen peas intwo thirds of the way through the risotto process) and rice and saute for 5 minutes on high. Dump in the wine and evaporate it off.
  6. Add a cup of the boiling water and the concentrated broth and stir around, then half a cup at a time following the usual risotto process, but stop when the rice is still a bit al dente.
  7. Meanwhile make the bechamel sauce with 1 1/2 c milk and a few T of flour. Thicken.
  8. Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste, then some tabs of butter and stirring in 1/2 c parmigiano reggiano, and then the cup of milk which is best heated up 30 seconds or so in the  microwave first so it does not shock the risotto.
  9. Spray your oven dish with veggie spray, we used a 9x14 in glass baking dish. [The recipe calls for buttering the dish and bread crumbing it. Too complicated!]
  10. Pour half the risotto into the dish, level it out, then layer the cubed cheese evenly across the surface. Pour the hot bechamel sauce over the cheese and spread around evenly.
  11. Pour the rest over this and spread around evenly.
  12. Sprinkle the parmigiano and breadcrumbs lightly over the surface to create a bit of crust.
  13. Bake at 200° F for 30 minutes, including maybe a 5 minute broil at the end under close supervision to finish off the crust.
  14. Pull out and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.


  1. From Benedetta's Kitchen: "Fatto in casa by Benedetta" = "Made at home by Benedetta" ["sformato di riso filante con zucchine"].
    [English translation with step by step photos.]
  2. Absentminded bob forgot he had a free Bryn Mawr Film Institute Members Only showing of some surprise movie at 7pm, so we had to speed up the baking process. 350° F for 20 minutes. bob ate and ran. Maybe this had something to do with the flexible result rather than a cuttable rice cake. If you are shooting for the latter style, reduce a bit the liquids involved and bake according to those original instructions. We were happy with the gooey cheesy quality of our experiment. [The movie turned out to be a Joan Crawford 1954 classic western like no other western, Johnny Guitar, with shades of McCarthy's HUAC activities reflected in the small town posse. A woman to woman gunfight at the conclusion. Pretty off the wall stuff.]
  3. Illustrations available.
timballozucchinipeas.htm: 12-sep-2018 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]