heirloom tomato risotto and pizza bianca

October 8th, 2008 · 32 Comments

i made this a few weeks ago and now the heirloom tomatoes in nashville are all but gone. perhaps some of you way up north are still harvesting the tail end of your crops, but it’s OVA here in the south. and it is indeed sad. but this is how the world works and i have been able to buck up and let it go because i am – mostly – a mature adult. and really, if ever a tomato was going to get a good send-off, this dish right here would be a preferred way to go.

on a brighter note, ‘the fresh market‘ a national chain of specialized grocery stores, catering to yuppies and the like who can now shop while being soothed to the tunes of bach, mozart and chopin and in flattering light, carries a surprisingly decent version of the heirloom all year round. so ok, get this – they’re grown in canada. and yes, they are pricier and not exactly replicas of what gets pulled from the ground on an dewy august morning – but they taste really good and if you’re willing to pay, it puts an end to all the whining about "winter tomatoes". (i’m quite sure i just heard the sound of all the die-hard locavores collectively groan.)

i saw this on chefectomy and knew i had to try it. the recipe is listed below, but it is all his. i take no credit whatsoever except to say that i did a damn fine rendition and when we sat down to dinner we were absolutely and collectively awed.

heirloom tomato risotto
adapted from

5 – 7 heirloom tomatoes (depending on size)
fresh thyme sprigs (i used 8)
2 T plus 1/4 C olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C arborio rice
4 C vegetable stock or broth
1/4 C cream
6 T freshly grated parmegiano with more for serving
2 T fresh basil, julienned

place tomatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 2 T olive oil.  sprinkle with salt and pepper. cover with thyme sprigs. roast at 325 for 35 minutes or until the skins begin to wrinkle.

in a saucepan, warm the broth. heat another saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining 1/4 C of olive oil and then add the onions, cooking them until translucent 3-4 minutes.

add the arborio rice stirring to coat each grain with the oil – 2 minutes. add the wine and cook until evaporated – 1 minute.

add enough stock to rice until just covered. stir occasionally. rice should cook but not boil. continue to add stock every few minutes as it cooks off. maintain enough stock to cover rice until the liquid cooks down slightly – then add more. continue to stir occasionally. you do not want the rice to stick to the pan. the rice is ready in 16-18 minutes and should be a creamy consistency. if cooked properly the rice grains will have a very suitable hardness when you bite it.

turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parmesan cheese. add salt to taste. chop the roasted heirloom tomatoes and add to the rice. to serve ladle the rice into a warmed bowl and top with fresh basil and the parmegiano.

as a perfect accompaniment to the risotto, i made jim lahey’s (of the revolutionary no-knead bread) pizza bianca. it’s a perfect recipe except i felt it needed less water, as is reflected in the recipe below which was found on marthastewart.com. martha’s people called for 1 3/4 cups water, but this is most certainly not the case proving once again that martha is in fact quite fallible.

i think many people equate pizza bianca to a ricotta cheese based pizza, even adding mozzarella on top of that. but this is pizza bianca in its purest form and quite frankly it needs nothing else because despite its nakedness, this pizza was literally devoured before my eyes – like in a ravenous way that was almost a bit disconcerting.

jim lahey’s pizza bianca
adapted from
martha stewart.com

makes 2 zen shaped pizzas – let the pizzas be what they were meant to be, not forcing them into any preconceived shapes…

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary

combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 1/4 cups cold water. mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

put dough on a lightly floured baker’s peel. dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips. work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch. drizzle with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with extra salt (i suggest a good flaky salt here).

place a baking stone, sometimes known as a pizza stone, in the oven. set oven to broil, about 520 degrees. slide pizza onto baking stone with the baker’s peel. bake until the bubbles range from golden to deep brown in color, 10 to 12 minutes.

again, the perfect italian dinner, if not perhaps a bit on the carb heavy side. but that’s easily rectified – just have bacon and eggs the next morning – preferably on top of any leftover pizza bianca.

but this will be unlikely…

Tags: pizza · risotto · tomatoes

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Julia // Oct 8, 2008 at 5:07 am

    claudia, you are so right about us northern folk — I, too, am surprised that yesterday I picked 8 (!!) tomatoes … and that risotto does look fabulous.

  • 2 The Italian Dish // Oct 8, 2008 at 5:53 am

    Both the risotto and the pizza look wonderful – I bet you slept like a baby that night.

  • 3 Marie // Oct 8, 2008 at 7:23 am

    I bet the flavors were popping out all over in this dish!! We have a Fresh Market out here too, and for some reason I can find canned San Marzano tomatoes really resonably piced! (I think they’re not pricing them right, but I’m not saying a word!!) Shhhhh! Love your pizza too, I bet it all vanished in a heartbeat!!

  • 4 jodycakes // Oct 8, 2008 at 8:03 am

    ‘…zen shaped pizzas…’ LOVE IT. This is great. Can’t wait to try it.

  • 5 Robert // Oct 8, 2008 at 8:14 am


    Dont dispare oer’ the Tomatoes, our fall crop is about 20 days out here in central Florida. At least they are USA……. Does that count?

    For those of us that dont measure, +/- 28% is flair, hardly enough to label as wrong. Thats a big target for such small rocks…………….

  • 6 Becky and the Beanstock // Oct 8, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Naked pizza, eh? And no-knead? Seems too easy to be real — that’s my kind of recipe (despite what sometimes appears on my site).

    I am crying the tomato lament too. My tomato crop certainly has run out (in Missouri) and though there are still good ones to be had at the local market, i can see that the end is in sight. Everything changes when the tomatoes are gone…

  • 7 Lauren // Oct 8, 2008 at 9:13 am

    i’m a big fan of risotto, and that looked great. the pizza looks like it needed some cheese.

  • 8 Amy // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Looks delish.
    I have seen heirloom tomatoes…tho’ needless to say I’m oddly intimidated by them (must be bc I’m odd myself!)….And I haven’t made risotto in ages….

    Looks like I have another item to cook (within the next few weeks! lol)…

  • 9 any little reason // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:19 am

    That is the perfect combination of two comfort foods – looks amazing! I could eat risotto every day.

  • 10 evil chef mom // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:45 am

    i saw this recipe too and have debated making it… i guess i should before all of our tomatoes are gone. sigh

  • 11 noble pig // Oct 8, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Can I come over to eat? Please.

  • 12 Julie // Oct 8, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    So long, farewell heirloom tomatoes. They’re still in the market where I am but I think they’ll be gone in the next two weeks. Tomato risotto is only one of many reasons that makes me sad.

  • 13 Heather // Oct 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I have about four stupice tomatoes left, and one big fatty pineapple heirloom the size of a fetus. That one should be about ripe today, actually. Then it’s the tragic end!

    I appreciate locavory, but unless the die-hards are willing to stop using salt and pepper, they can just stfu. Get on with your bad, tomato-loving self.

  • 14 peter // Oct 8, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Yep, I saw some heirlooms yesterday at our St. Lawrence market.

    The risotto is naturally colourful…reminds of the colour of autumn trees, cool!

  • 15 chefectomy // Oct 8, 2008 at 3:02 pm


    A lovely job. I am certainly honored that you would bother to blog about one of my recipes and share with your loyal following. I must say the Pizza Bianca as you have presented it here looks fantastic. I had to laugh a bit at your discussion (and Heather’s salt and pepper comments) regarding the local angle (or lack thereof) as my post spoke to how all encompassing and important that is to folks up here in the Bay Area as I am discovering since moving here.


  • 16 The Urban Eater // Oct 8, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    This is the funniest thing I have heard all year:
    “on a brighter note, ‘the fresh market‘ a national chain of specialized grocery stores, catering to yuppies and the like who can now shop while being soothed to the tunes of bach, mozart and chopin and in flattering light…”

  • 17 Lesley // Oct 8, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I may be smug at times about my vegetarianism (btw, my name is Lesley and I approve this message), but I cannot–CANNOT–go wholly locavore. I love tomatoes too much. I’d have a hothouse if it were feasible so I could have tomatoes and baby lettuce from my yard all year round. But I do not, so I have to buy from California, Canada, and all other sorts of far-reaching locales. And don’t even try to take away my bananas…

  • 18 phillygirl64 // Oct 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    locavory makes me crazy too…just TRY to deprive me of coffee!

  • 19 lifeinrecipes // Oct 8, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    We have a Fresh Market here. It’s kinda weird, like I feel like I’m on a date with the grocery store.

    I think I will still be able to squeeze a few tomatoes out of a farmer’s market this weekend and then onto the canned goods for a while.

  • 20 lifeinrecipes // Oct 8, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    …and both recipes look fantastic – been wanting to try the pizza.

  • 21 Peter // Oct 8, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I had pizza bianca for breakfast every morning when I lived in Rome. Unless I got pizza rossa.

  • 22 ponyboat // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Tomatoes? Yeah. And I’d wrestle a mongoose for a damn ripe melon right about now. Note to grocery store: just because you slap a “ripe and ready to eat” sticker on it, d0es not make it so.

  • 23 MangerLaVille // Oct 9, 2008 at 1:20 am

    This risotto looks amazing, colorful and creamy, plus that pizza bianco is just the perfect complement. I feel your pain about grocery stores. I wanted to get some of the last days of fig season. But NYC is not the place. I had to fly back to SF.

  • 24 Brittany // Oct 9, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Heirlooms ended last week in the Pac northwest, and I have 3 sitting on my counter. Just enough for a half recipe. Husband can fend for himself for dinner tomorrow. I’m eating it all.

  • 25 Lynn // Oct 9, 2008 at 8:55 am

    You never cease to make me want dinner at 10am!

  • 26 giz // Oct 9, 2008 at 11:29 am

    You’re right – here in the northland we’re still getting tomatoes and this looks simply divine.

  • 27 Nik Snacks // Oct 10, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I worked at The Fresh Market when I was in high school. The original one. It was the best job I’d ever had (up until that point) even though my customers were mean and I could never tell the difference between cilantro and parsley. But that was THEN…

  • 28 Sara // Oct 10, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    This looks really delicious, and colorful too!

  • 29 cookiecrumb // Oct 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    (Hey, man. You set me up for it. And, Heather? I make my own local salt. I don’t eat it; it scares me. But I could.)

  • 30 Louis Dunn // Oct 11, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    wow that looks really good!!!!! i love your cooking claudia….

    Love louis

  • 31 Meg // Oct 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    My desire to eat local tends to go out the window at some point in the winter when I really, really, really want something brighter tasting than kale. The risotto looks great – plain pizza bianca is a favorite in my house. My kids like it the next day with fresh ricotta topped with jam.

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