Donna Hay’s Lemon Parmesan Risotto

by Darina on July 22, 2010

Like a good man, good risotto is hard to find.

I grew up disliking rice. It was something you served when you ran out of potatoes, or ate with Chinese food, to soak up the grease of your sweet and sour pork. However, my first encounter with risotto in Italy made me a convert. I adore anything creamy, and the plump arborio was a far cry from the dry, tasteless grains the ladies in my family liked to mix with carrots and peas and serve alongside roasted chicken.

I’m the sort of traveler that remembers every half-decent meal I’ve had in any town not my own. Is it the atmosphere, the exotic and unfamiliar surroundings, that heighten my experience of it? A crusty baguette eaten at a sidewalk cafe in Paris becomes the best bread I’ve ever had. Pasta twirled on a fork at restaurant in Florence becomes the best spaghetti bolognese I’ve eaten. Every repast is wrapped in hyperbole.

What I do know it this; every risotto dish I’ve had outside of Italy has been a poor relation to the risotto I’ve had inside it. I often wonder why. It’s not difficult to make. It’s nothing but a dish of rice cooked in stock and embellished with a bit of butter and cheese, yet the risotto I’ve eaten at many a restaurant has been anything but inspired. Often it’s soupy. Or unspeakably bland. Not only that, it’s a dish that costs pennies to make at home and is not worth what a lot of eateries charge for it.

When I want risotto, I make it myself. It takes a bit of time, a bit of stirring, but the results are always elegant. Plus, you can dress up risotto hundreds of ways. Or you can serve it plain, with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Add a couple of seared scallops on top and you have a main course for a dinner party that is sure to impress.

This recipe is from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book I. The lemon rind adds a little tartness to the sharp, full flavor of the cheese. Give yourself about half an hour to cook the risotto and serve immediately; risotto becomes gummy as it cools. It’s best eaten fresh, so forget leftovers!

Buon appetito!

Lemon and Parmesan Risotto

adapted from Donna Hay

Serves 4-6


20g (3/4 oz) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

5 1/2 cups (2 1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups arborio rice

3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

20g (3/4 oz) butter, extra

sea salt and cracked black pepper


1) Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, oil, and onions;  cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft and golden.

2) Place the stock in a separate saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer.

3) Add the rice and lemon rind to the onion mixture and stir for 2 minutes, or until the rice is translucent.

4) Add the hot stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente. This should take 25-30 minutes.

5) Stir through extra butter, Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Turo July 23, 2010 at 3:50 am

You are right a good risotto is hard to find. My husband also disliked rice and he will only eat risotto. The lemon risotto sounds delicious.


kelly July 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

Really like Donna Hay’s recipes. They are so great to work with and always turn out well. Haven’t tried this one. Maybe my guys won’t tell me “the rice isn’t done” with this recipe!

Darina July 23, 2010 at 6:29 am

Give it a try…it’s simple but the lemon gives it a bit of a twist.

Sharlene July 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Mmm I haven’t had a ton of risotto thus far but I’ve pretty much loved every single one I’ve had and I’ve started making my own which has been much better on my wallet. I’ll definitely try this one out!

Debjani July 27, 2010 at 5:53 am

Wow. You can tell from the photo that Darina has a feel for risotto, it´s not too soupy or claggy. It looks just PERFECT.

Darina July 27, 2010 at 6:59 am

Thank you so much!

Erin October 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm

We had this tonight with a Romano-encrusted chicken and it was perfect!

owyn johnny May 7, 2014 at 6:08 am

Hi, just a quick question, has anyone ever tried risotto with truffles or even truffle oil, it really makes a difference to the taste.

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