Basil And Pine Nut ‘Risotto’

I normally hate seeing things listed on a menu with inverted commas but I can’t really think of another title without it sounding even more wanky, e.g., ‘deconstructed pesto’ so it’ll have to do. Nomenclature aside, it’s another recipe inspired by Modernist Cuisine where you make risotto-like dishes from grains other than rice or in our case, nuts.

I’d first read about using pine nuts in this way here and, as you can probably guess, it gave me the idea to use the separate ingredients of pesto in a new and interesting way. Although the article there says the pine nuts develop a popping texture from pressure cooking them, I didn’t find that, it was more a softness with no discernible crunch as you would expect from a raw nut.

And because there’s no natural starch in them as with, say, arborio or carnaroli, you have to use a separate thickener to get the consistency of real risotto. I did this in two steps, firstly by reducing down the gelatin-rich veal stock the nuts were cooked in to a thick sauce; secondly, I used Ultrasperse 3 due to its creamy mouthfeel and thickening properties as the basil puree and butter have a tendency to loosen the sauce quite a bit. The ascorbic acid is just vitamin C and it’s there to help preserve the green colour of the basil (although the brownness of the veal stock dulled it somewhat).

One last thing, for the mantecatura I used a raw milk butter from Ballymore Farm that I bought in the Dublin Food Co-op, it’s quite expensive (€6 for 250g) but it’s of outstanding quality.

Basil & Pine Nut ‘Risotto’

Serves: 4

200g pine nuts
60g butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
150ml vermouth
350ml veal stock
1g ascorbic acid (optional)
50g basil leaves
5g Ultrasperse 3
50g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
2.5ml lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and spread the pine nuts out on a baking tray.
  2. Bake the pine nuts for around 5 minutes until golden taking care not to burn them.
  3. Over a low heat, melt 10g of butter in a pressure cooker and gently fry the shallots for 4-5 minutes until soft.
  4. Add the toasted pine nuts and vermouth.
  5. Increase the heat and boil off the alcohol in the vermouth.
  6. Add the veal stock and then place the lid on the pressure cooker.
  7. Bring up to full pressure and then cook for 8 minutes.
  8. Use the quick release method of running the pressure cooker under cold water to depressurise.
  9. Return the lidless pressure cooker to the heat and reduce the liquid in the cooker to a thick sauce.
  10. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the basil for 30 seconds and then plunge into an ice bath.
  11. In a blender, add the ascorbic acid and basil.
  12. Add some water and blend until a thick puree forms.
  13. Take the pressure cooker off the heat and pour the basil puree to the in and mix it thoroughly.
  14. Add the Ultrasperse 3 and stir until incorporated to thicken the risotto.
  15. Add the rest of the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until fully melted.
  16. Squeeze in the lemon juice to cut through the richness of the fat (add more if required).
  17. Divide between four plates and serve immediately.

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