Chef Meg's Makeover: Brown Rice Risotto

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When the weather starts to cool, risotto is one of those dishes that pop up on menus. Creamy and rich, studded with vegetables--and usually full of cream, cheese, and butter. Traditionally, risotto, which is a slow-cooked rice dish that hails from northern Italy, is made with Arborio rice, a short-grained variety that is known for being firm yet creamy when cooked, due to high starch content. (It's also the rice most commonly used in rice pudding.)

To make a basic risotto, aromatic vegetables are sautéed in olive oil and sometimes butter, then the rice is added to the pot. The rice is sautéed to add flavor, then wine is sometimes added. The risotto is cooked slowly and stirred constantly, while cups of hot broth are added. One cup is added at a time, and once the broth is fully absorbed, another goes into the pot. Sauteed vegetables and a bit of cheese finishes the dish.

Most cooks reach for the white variety of Arborio rice, which has had the outer hull removed. Unfortunately, in removing the exterior, it removes the bulk of the fiber.

Stepfanie challenged me to re-create risotto but slim it down. Most restaurant varieties are laden with caloric ingredients. A typical serving can have 400 calories and up to 20 grams of fat. Delicious? Yes! Healthy? Not so much.

Our new version has just 220 calories, just under 8 grams of fat, and almost 4 grams of fiber. Plus, it has one serving of vegetables in each portion.

Keep reading to learn more--and watch the recipe video!

You can customize this recipe to suit your tastes:
  • Swap the parmesan for your favorite cheese.

  • Use any vegetable combination you like. Note that most vegetables should be cooked separately and added at the end of the cooking.

  • Swap chicken broth for vegetable broth if you prefer.

  • Add dried herbs and spices at the beginning of the cooking process (with the rice) and fresh herbs at the end.

  • NOTE: It's important to use hot or warm broth with this recipe. Adding cold or tepid broth will slow down the cooking process! Risotto's creamy goodness comes from the slow cooking process, which allows for the slow release of the rice's starch. Don't try to rush the process. Stirring risottio is a great way to destress, let me tell you. Sounds strange, but you can tune out everything else in life and just focus on the rhythmic stirring, the warmth from the pot, and the gentle simmering sounds.

Comment on the video here. Find the full recipe here.

Have you ever tried risotto? Do you like it? Will you try this recipe?

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Try adding dried fruit, such as craisins, raisins or cherries. Also stirring in toasted pinenuts at the end gives extra texture. Report
I adore risotto. It's also very good made with barley rather than arborio rice. I love adding oven-roasted vegetables. I've had it with fresh sweet corn (sliced off the cob), beets, mushrooms, carrots, butternut squash, oven-roasted bell peppers. Chef Meg is right; it's a very easy and forgiving dish, and my family just loves it. Report
My hubby makes risotto with barley and it is FANTASTIC! Report
The recipe sounds easy enough. I've always have been intimadated with making risotto but this looks do able. I love the idea of mixing the vegetables with the rice. Thank you. Report
thanks going to try it out Report
Made regular "fully loaded" mushroom risotto a few weeks ago and it was awesome. Look forward to this yummy healtheir option, I'm making it tonight! Report
I love rice and this is one recipe that I will try. Report
I have never tried risotto, but it looks delish! Report
We haven't had risotto at our house in a LONG time but when we did have it, very much enjoyed it. I will try this recipe but with a few adjustments as the hubby detests spinach & mushrooms. Report
Like SARASMILINGINKC, I make risotto in a pressure cooker, because then you don't have to stand and stir, and stir and stir. Though I agree that can be therapeutic, I don't usually have the time to do it. I posted a recipe for Green Risotto on (
) if you want to check it out. Report
I'm slowly getting used to eating more rice - brown, 'healthier-than-white' rice - but really like my rice 'not wet' or creamy. I don't like rice pudding...that creamy texture seems like runny mashed potatoes...not very appetizing for me.

I do, however, like veggies sauteed into my rice - with a little thai chili for 'pop'. Much the same nutrition, without the 'creamy texture'. Report
Just not a fan of rice. If I were going to eat it though, this sounds interesting. Report
I have never tried it...but it sounds really yummy! Might have to make it. Report
I had risotto at my son's house once. It did take a long time to make, but I enjoy cooking, so I will try this. I've gotten into a rut with my old recipes and need something new! Report
I don't eat grains, too carby. Wonder if this would work with grated cauliflower? Report
That looks suspiciously like something I mopped up from the floor recently. I'm still working on forgiving the cat. Report
I love a good risotto !! So, I'll have to try this recipe some time. I don't know if I'd swap the cheese. Some types of cheese do not work well with risotto. Example, cheddar cheese will make the dish oily. Good Parmesan cheese is a hard cheese that retains its texture when cooked. Romano or asiago would be good swaps if a person wanted to swap. avoid cheeses like cheddar.

Cream cheese might work. I may have to try that some time. I love trying new recipes ! Report
Can't wait to read the reviews. : ) Report
I LOVE the JOY you exude for cooking. “tune out everything else in life and just focus on the rhythmic stirring, the warmth from the pot, and the gentle simmering sounds.”

Sounds as wonderful as yoga---these words of a real honest to goodness cook. Thanks for making me smile!
got to try it Report
I love cooking with brown rice! Another calorie saver is to go Spanish - leave out the cheese altogether or substitute it with tomato sauce. One of my favorite dishes is brown rice with veggies and mussels! Report
I prefer the convenience rather than dishes that take a long time to make. There is a quinoa & brown rice microwave packet that suits me just fiine! 90 seconds and I'm ready for a meal. Report
Tried it many times but didn't think there was any way for it to be healthy - will definitely try this!! Report
I had risotto once in a restaurant. It was the best rice dish I ever tried. I was wondering if I could make it in the slow cooker. Also not all brown rice is created equal. I will give this a try. Report
I've only made risotto once and it took so long standing in front of the stove that if it had tasted terrific I might make it again but it didn't--it was just okay. But, I think I'll try Meg's version using brown rice; it looks good. Might not be quite the same as risotto but I bet it's still wonderful--I like the ingredients, very healthy Report
I love risotto but I'm not usually a cook. I think I might give this one a try! Report
Nope and nope. Report
Nope and nope. Report
I've never made risotto, but this sounds good!
I don't like mushrooms, so I would substitute zucchini instead. Report
Can't wait to try it! Report
I LOVE risotto! so will definetly give this a try. I once tried it with barley instead of rice and it was not a hit. My family likes it with asparagus and mushrooms. I also use shrimp sometimes. To add a ton of flavour buy dried mushrooms, soak them in water and use the juice from the mushrooms to flavour the dish! Report
I love making risotto but it is usually very cheese heavy (no cream in mine, not sure where that came from in the blurb). I might try this brown rice version as a change-up. Report
Look interesting, I will give it a try. Report
I have heard of Risotto but was not sure what it consisted of. Might give it a try. Report
i will try this I have never dared because it looked to complicated Report
I made risotto once, and it took so long to make, that I said, "Once is enough!" It was good, but it wasn't THAT great. Report
It seems like a real time waster, but I'm going to try Meg's light version. Report
We have made it several times, I always get a kick out of watching Hells Kitchen and the always mess it up. Report
I made risotto in the past quite a bit and am eager to try to a lightened version. I have had success making risotto in my pressure cooker (this working mom’s best friend in the kitchen) so I will probably try it that way. (If you do, read the info on your cooker because rice requires special preparation for the cooker.) Report
I have never tried it. I would like to try it if someone else prepared it. The only time I seem to hear about it is on Chef Gordon Ramseys Hells Kitchen, and he is always yelling at the chefs about there terrible rissoto or raving about how well it has been prepared. Report
love this . will give it a shot . Report
Risotto is too time consuming for me, but I actually just made risotto in the crockpot last night and it turned out really well! I'm going to try modifying this recipe for the crockpot. Report
Anything Chef Meg can make over I will try :-)) Report
I love risotto, and am excited to see a healthier version. I will definitely try this! Report
Risotto is one dish I do well. At least family members always are asking me to make it. I can't view the video because the server I am on right now doesn't allow youtube but I'll try to read the recipe.

I love arborio rice but is there a rice that hasn't been stripped of its nutrients that could be used instead?
I love risotto and brown rice. I'm looking forward to trying this! Report
Great ideas to reduce the calories and fat! I will be making this soon! Report
Sounds yummy ... can't wait to try this! Report
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