Brown Rice Risotto with Roasted Tomato Sauce

In cooking school, we were shown how to make risotto the "right way". The Italian cuisine teacher came to our class and explained exactly how it was done. Oh man, the guy was so passionate about it. If for one second you stopped stirring the rice, the next second he was right up in your face, yelling. I think at one point, he even shed a tear. Italians take their risotto very seriously, like an art form. But don't worry, it's actually quite simple to make.

A traditional risotto is made with arborio rice. It's cooked by adding stock little by little and stiring constantly. Finally, butter and parmesan are added. They give it that amazing creamy texture. Risotto is usually served as a starter, but it can easily replace normal rice as a side dish. In this recipe I used brown rice instead of arborio. Why? Because it's healthier. The brown rice will need to be pre-cooked. This can be done a day in advance along with the tomato sauce. The longer you cook tomato sauce the better it is.

Serves 4

Roasted Tomato Sauce

• 3 tomatoes • 2 chopped garlic cloves • 3 sprigs thyme • 2 tablespoons olive oil • salt + black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tomatoes in quarters and lay them on a pan. Throw on the garlic, thyme, olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Once done, put the tomatoes in a deep bowl, discarding the thyme, and blend with a hand mixer.

Brown Rice Risotto

• 1 1/2 cup brown rice • 3 cups water • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock • 1/2 cup white wine (optional) • 1 onion, finely chopped • 1 cup packed grated quality parmesan • 1/2 cup roasted tomato sauce • 1 tablespoon butter • juice of 1/2 a lemon • salt + black pepper • chopped walnuts (also optional - but good!)

First off, pre-cook your brown rice in 3 cups of water with a pinch of salt until all the water is absorbed, it'll take about 30 minutes. Set aside.

Heat up your stock in a saucepan. In a sauteing pan, on medium heat, cook the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 10 minutes, until tender. Then add the pre-cooked rice and stir. If using the white wine pour it in and let it bubble away.

Now you want to add stock a laddle at a time. Once what you put in has been absorbed, add some more, stirring constantly. It should take about 20 minutes to have all the liquid in. If you see that your rice doesn't take any more liquid, don't put more. It'll take between two and three cups of stock. You still want the rice to have a little crunch.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, the butter, lemon juice and parmesan. Season with salt and black pepper.

Top with chopped walnuts.