Pesto Risotto for One With Shrimp

August 15, 2018
21 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

"Risotto is the kind of food you make for people you love." My ex said that to me once, referring to how long it takes to stir it, how no one would ever set aside all that time just for themselves and a plate of risotto. I disagreed. Maybe it's because I'm an egoist and love myself. More, I appreciate the calmness of having to stand there by the stove, watching the shallot and butter–slicked rice soak up ladleful by ladleful of Better Than Bouillon stock. Then the way the pesto simultaneously dyes it a glorious green and loosens it all'onda (meaning it ripples like a wave). Stirring my soon-to-be dinner for 18 minutes straight is my own way of practicing mindfulness, how I like to be, as they say, with myself. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The 30-Minute Dish I Cook for Myself & for Myself Alone. —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 1
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • 2 cups chicken, seafood, or vegetable stock (especially Better Than Bouillon), heated
  • 4 gorgeous jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons your favorite jarred pesto, or homemade (if you're an overachiever)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, to taste
In This Recipe
  1. In a medium braiser or any high-sided pan, melt the butter and sauté the shallot for a couple minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the rice, coating each grain until oil-slicked. Splash in the wine and reduce, stirring constantly.
  2. Once the alcohol has evaporated, lower the heat and slowly ladle in the hot stock (one or two ladlefuls at a time), stirring until fully absorbed by the rice between each addition. Keep stirring until the rice is perfectly al dente (to the tooth), about 16 to 18 minutes.
  3. When cooked to your liking (at this stage, I like my rice with a slight bite in the middle), turn off the heat, stir in the shrimp, and cover for 5 minutes so the risotto and shrimp can finish cooking together in the residual heat.
  4. After 5 minutes, stir in the pesto and sour cream, which should loosen it up a bit, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ashley
  • Laura Settle
    Laura Settle
  • lgoldenhar
  • juliunruly
  • Chef Carlos
    Chef Carlos
Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he is currently working on his first cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at Saveur, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times and follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho. Born and raised in Georgia, Eric lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson.

    49 Reviews

    Marty January 23, 2021
    Made last night...ate it all because so delicious but could have made it for 2 meals! is the variation I did with what was in my fridge...onions instead of shallots, zhoug instead of pesto (Trader Joe's version great to have on hand or make your going to make all pesto recipes with this!)...and. I cut the shrimp into pieces so there were bites throughout. Just great! (I never review but had to!)
    marjorie L. July 31, 2019
    Loved this. Did not have any broth. So added lemon water. I bet would be good with farro. Thank you
    Ashley May 27, 2019
    I made this last night and it was a hit! I quadrupled the recipe (we like leftovers), and used a homemade garlic scape/sorrel/basil pesto. I didn't have shrimp, so I stirred in roasted asparagus and lemon zest at the end, and topped it with pecorino. So good!
    Clare A. April 17, 2019
    I can’t wait to make this tonight! Making for two people - should I fully double the recipe or 1.5x?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. April 17, 2019
    Hm, I would double it!
    Juliebell February 22, 2019
    First let me commend you on your beautiful story that actually nourished my soul after the news on all fronts of the last few days. It’s stories like yours that ground and center us and provide hope. So I grabbed some jarred pesto at Costco and proceeded with the recipe. We loved it! Thank you for a lovely column, a lovely story and a delicious recipe.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. April 17, 2019
    Just seeing this now, Julie. Thank you so much for the lovely words.
    Alison February 16, 2019
    Outstanding! I was dubious about the sour cream but it worked perfectly. My family devoured it. I used homemade lobster stock and homemade pesto. Perfection.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. April 17, 2019
    Laura S. October 20, 2018
    Should the shrimp have been seared beforehand? It seems so in the picture, and the instructions mention letting the shrimp "finish" in the residual heat.
    Karen October 28, 2018
    Exactly what I thought. That said, marinated and grilled shrimp over a bed of this risotto would be delicious!
    Author Comment
    Eric K. November 6, 2018
    Feel free to sear if you'd like! If you've been stirring on lowish heat for 18 minutes, then the 5 minutes off heat should be enough to cook the shrimp.

    The shrimp in the photo are NOT seared.
    trish October 10, 2018
    This is a keeper. Added a litle parma and OMG, so good. Enough fo rone, good for two. Leftovers! The pesto was brilliant!
    Author Comment
    Eric K. November 6, 2018
    So glad to hear.
    lgoldenhar October 9, 2018
    This recipe was just okay for me. I think the method of cooking the shrimp didn’t work for me. I much prefer fully cooked shrimp. Easy enough to fix though. I just threw the shrimp back in the pan and cooked on each side for two minutes.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. November 6, 2018
    Sorry about that. I'm sure everyone has their own preference for the shrimp's doneness; I like mine *just* cooked through so it's still soft.
    Juliebell February 22, 2019
    We love oven roasted shrimp and that’s what I used. I found the risotto needed a very healthy pinch of salt and pepper and used sour cream with chives. The rice was very flavorful and the shrimp plump and juicy...
    juliunruly September 22, 2018
    Would goat cheese work as well as the sour cream? Different? Worse? Worth trying?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 28, 2018
    Worth trying for sure (let me know how it goes). The reason I picked sour cream was b/c it's what I happen to have lying around all the time. But really, the pesto is the main flavor here, so goat cheese might be a lot. OR you may love it. Report back!
    Chef C. September 22, 2018
    Excellent recipe - luscious risotto and very easy. I added saffron for flavor and some color but the pesto negated it. This would be a good first course. Good story too!
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 28, 2018
    Hello Chef, so great to hear. Thanks for letting me know.
    Charlene September 22, 2018
    The shrimp in the photo appear browned. This happened in the residual heat process? Grilling or roasting the shrimp might add another layer of flavor?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 28, 2018
    Definitely. The only reason I cook my shrimp in the residual heat is because: 1) I'm lazy; and 2) I love soft, just-cooked prawns.
    Elizabeth D. September 21, 2018
    Would you adjust anything for altitude if cooking this in Denver?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 28, 2018
    ! Great question. Can I phone in a friend?
    Erin O. October 3, 2018
    Yes, increase cooking temp slightly (10-20°F) and expect it might take a few minutes longer. If your humidity is low, you may need to add slightly more wine at the start. (I lived in CO at 7500' for a few years.)
    Author Comment
    Eric K. November 6, 2018
    Thanks so much, Erin!
    Judy B. September 21, 2018
    My people! Looking forward to trying this recipe~
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 21, 2018
    Welcome home!
    calla L. September 21, 2018
    Just want to say thank you. This dish is amazing.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 21, 2018
    Thank YOU. Glad you like it.
    Momdocindc September 21, 2018
    Totally standard ratio on the risotto. Every risotto recipe i’ve Seen (hundreds?) and the standard Italian cookbooks, all 4:1
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 21, 2018
    Agreed! Thanks, Momdocindc.
    Sarah D. September 17, 2018
    Just wondering if I can substitute the wine with something else? I would like to feed this to my kids, but I'm worried about the alcohol content since I've heard it doesn't necessarily cook all the alcohol out of foods. Please advise. Thank you!
    amanda September 17, 2018
    If I'm out of wine when a recipe calls for it I usually sub in chicken stock, but there is already plenty of that here. Alternatively I might add a little bit of anchovy paste or miso if I'm trying to add more umami-ness, or vinegar or lemon juice for a little more zing. Again, the sour cream here probably has us covered in the 'zing' department. I bet this recipe would still taste good even without the wine, if you wanted to just skip it. I guess I'd try omitting the wine, tasting the outcome, and if it feels like it's still missing something, try a little more stock/acid/umami source to balance it all out...?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 18, 2018
    Hi Sarah, amanda is correct; you can just sub in a little more chicken stock. The pesto will be the main flavor note, anyway. Good luck!
    Ella Q. September 17, 2018
    Can't wait to try this, Eric!
    amanda September 17, 2018
    Sounds delicious! But if I want leftovers (or to serve two!), do the proportions work well if I just double everything?
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 17, 2018
    Totally, just x2. Let me know how it goes!
    reuel September 15, 2018
    4-1 ratio of stock to rice? Call me skeptical.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 15, 2018
    Hi reuel, what else would it be? I thought 4-1 was pretty standard for Italian al dente risottos. The real clincher, for me, is letting it sit covered for 5 minutes, then thinning out with the mantecatura—in this case, pesto and sour cream.
    reuel September 17, 2018
    Seems like too much stock to me for this small quantity of risotto. I'll try it and see.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. September 18, 2018
    Let me know! Depends on the rice, too. The Arborio I buy takes about 2 cups of stock, and even then it's a little harder than al dente until I let it sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking through. But I'd definitely stop adding it once you've reached the consistency you like.
    Laura S. October 20, 2018
    I ended up with extra stock I didnt use, but I had added one to many ladles full, so by the time it thickened up the rice was overcooked.
    Karen November 6, 2018
    When I make risotto for my family, the ratio is usually 5 cups hot chicken stock to 1 1/2 cups arborio, so this ratio sounds right to me. When you cook and stir on low heat, it will absorb it.
    Author Comment
    Eric K. November 6, 2018
    Thanks, Karen!
    Stephen S. May 20, 2019
    Going to try this tonight. 4-1 is my basic ratio but I always taste as I get towards the end to get just the right consistency.