Healthy Lemon Shrimp Risotto
Risotto. The long lost Italian rice dish missing from my life for much too long. Citrus garlic shrimp cut with a little kick of red chile pepper and packed with nutrient dense vegetables in a light white wine sauce with a touch of natural creaminess from arborio rice. In other words, Healthy Lemon Shrimp Risotto. Kid tested, kid approved (thanks to my adorable ‘niece’ Charli) AND makes excellent leftovers, does it get any better?
Arborio rice, the rice used in risotto, is quite unique in that it has creamy properties when cooked slowly (but not too slowly, no one has time for that). The arborio rice makes for a creamy dish that you swear has cream in it, but it doesn’t…that is if you make it at home. My first encounter with risotto was when I was in Australia, it was love at first bite and I knew I had to recreate it at home. Then I came back to the states and ordered risotto at a restaurant and could hardly choke it down. Why do American’s have to take such a wonderful dish and turn it into a butter, cream, salt pool of tastelessness…nasty. Luckily the company I was with when I experienced the Americanized version of risotto was wonderful, it was the first date with my now Husband!
The first time I created this recipe was after my first encounter with a GOOD risotto in Australia and I’ve been making it for the last 2 years. I’ve never really taken the time to write down the recipe, it’s one of those that I just have in my back pocket, but I thought you guys would really like it based on the rave reviews in my house. I forced myself to measure the ingredients I was using which is easily the hardest part about blogging, I’m not a recipe follower.
Let’s get down to business. Please do yourself a favor and buy raw shrimp as opposed to cooked shrimp. Your shrimp will be so much more tender and able to absorb more flavor if you cook it from raw. Funny story about that. I had only ever bought cooked shrimp because the “grey” shrimp (raw shrimp) looked weird to me and I didn’t know what to do with it. When I went to make this recipe in Australia I stood at the meat counter bug eyed and totally confused. First of all, it’s not ‘shrimp’ in Australia, it’s ‘prawns’. All the ‘prawns’ were grey and not pink, I almost chickened out but I was determined to cook up some prawns.
To add to my confusion, it was in kilos and not pounds. I was drawing a blank on the conversion and was worried I would end up with 2 lbs of raw shrimp costing me $50 and no idea what to do with it. I stuck with it and told the guy I wanted $15 in prawns, totally bailing on trying to figure out the conversion. I’m sure he thought I was a really smart American as I hesitated to say the word prawns and not shrimp. Back on American soil, I like to buy shrimp from the frozen section at Target. They have a bag of large shrimp that is shelled, no tail and de-veined so all I have to do is thaw it and I’m set to go.
First step, prep your ingredients. Dice up everything that needs diced, pretty self explanatory. I usually start by cutting each shrimp into two pieces and squeezing a lemon over the top with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a few red chile flakes. I let it sit and marinate on the cutting board while I cut up my veggies.
Cook your shrimp in a skillet over medium heat and toss a few times while cooking. Once all the shrimp has turned pink, remove it from the skillet and put in a covered dish to keep it warm. Whatever you do, do not overcook the shrimp or it will be tough.
Next up is a quick saute to your garlic and shallots. Shallots are basically a fancy onion. They have a more mild flavor than regular onions, but you could easily sub a little white or yellow onion here if you don’t have shallots. Once the shallots are tender, add in the red pepper and mushrooms and cook for roughly 3 minutes.
If you are intimidated by risotto because you hear it’s a lot of work, it really isn’t. There are some recipes out there that really complicate the process and have you stirring the rice for practically an hour straight and are picky about the temperature of the broth you add to the rice. I would never do that to you. This isn’t a 30 minute meal necessarily, probably closer to an hour total, but like I said, it makes for excellent leftovers to enjoy all week so it’s definitely worth it.
Add in the arborio rice, cooking wine and a touch of chicken broth. I usually add in the spices at this stage as well. Give everything a good stir. Let it simmer until the juices are mostly absorbed. You will cycle between adding ¾ to 1 cup of room temperature chicken broth, stirring it in and letting it simmer until it cooks down and repeating until the rice is cooked through and roughly doubled in size. Good old taste test of the rice is the best way to know when it’s done.
After the second cycle of adding broth, add in zucchini and peas. I like to wait to add these so they don’t overcook and become mushy. No one likes mushy zucchini that falls apart. After adding the last of the chicken broth, I add the spinach and let it cook with the last round.
You do not need to constantly stir the risotto, but I usually stir it once between adding more liquid or whatever is natural as I’m monitoring when to add more liquid. You don’t want to have the rice soak up all the liquid before adding more, but just let it cook down and become bubbly before adding more liquid. Whatever you do, don’t stress about whether you are stirring and adding liquid at the right time. It’s really very forgiving and it’s not about serving 5 star restaurant risotto here, it’s about a tasty meal that is nutrient dense (hello veggies!) and your family loves. Keep it simple.
Once I think the risotto is nearly done, I add the shrimp back in and remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. The rice will continue to absorb some of the juices. You can serve this dish with a dusting of parmesan if you’re into that, I’m personally very into that. All skillet creations are dusted with parmesan in our house.
Other than watching my niece devour every last bite of this I think my second favorite comment on this recipe was from my husband the last time I made it, “does this have butter in it? It’s really good”. This is when I do a happy dance because NO it doesn’t have butter in it, but the creaminess from the rice makes you think it’s much more decadent than the ingredients actually are. Definitely a win.
What recipe do you have in your back pocket and have never taken the time to write down? Do you have any unique experiences grocery shopping in a foreign country?
- 1 lb raw shrimp, tail off, shelled & de-veined
- 2 lemons
- 2 shallots (or ½ yellow onion)
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 c. white cooking wine
- 26 oz. unsalted chicken stock
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 1 zucchini
- 1 red pepper
- 1 package whole mushrooms
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 1 ¼ cup dry arborio rice
- Garlic powder
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. Red chile flakes
- PREP SHRIMP: Cut thawed shrimp in half and squeeze 1 lemon over shrimp. Sprinkle shrimp with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of red chile flakes. Let marinate while preping vegetables.
- PREP VEGETABLES: Thinly dice shallots. Slice and quarter zucchini. Cut red pepper into ¾ inch square chunks. Quarter mushrooms.
- Saute shrimp in skillet over medium heat tossing frequently until shrimp turns pink. Remove from skillet and set aside in covered dish.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in skillet and add minced garlic and shallots. Cook until shallots are tender.
- Add mushrooms and red pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes until mushrooms just begin to soften.
- Add rice, juice of 1/2 lemon, pepper to taste, red chile flakes, cooking wine, and ½ cup of chicken stock. Stir and let cook until juices reduce and become bubbly.
- Add ¾ cup chicken stock, cook until juices reduce and become bubbly stirring occasionally.
- Add 1 cup chicken stock, zucchini, and peas. Stir and cook until juices reduce and become bubbly.
- Continue adding ¾ cup of chicken stock and cooking till reduced and bubbly, stirring occasionally until rice is tender and doubled in size. Taste test for spice level and add more lemon or chile flakes as needed.
- Add spinach and remaining broth and cook until most of the juice is absorbed but still some remains in skillet as the rice will continue to absorb and thicken as it sits. Add shrimp back in, stir well and remove from burner.
- Let sit 5 minutes. Stir and serve.