Fresh pea and basil risotto

This creamy, comforting dish combines freshly shelled peas and bright summery basil in a Fresh Pea and Basil Risotto recipe.

My first week living in Maine, a colleague invited me over for a barbecue. The day turned out to be gloomy and drizzly, so we congregated in her kitchen — as happens so often when people gather — and chatted. In a small pot on the stove, freshly shelled peas purchased at the Orono Farmers Market bubbled to sweet perfection.

I’d forgotten how much I adore fresh peas until my first forkful that evening. They bear little resemblance to their often overcooked and sometimes over-salted cousins found in freezers and cans.

fresh peasFast forward two weeks, and I spotted a basket of fresh peas in the pod at the Bangor Farmers Market. Peacemeal Farm was selling them, and I couldn’t resist filling a bag. “Guess what your job will be?” I joked to my kids … but as my son reminded me, it wouldn’t be the first time I handed them a bag of peas to shell.

In the end, I shelled the peas, chopped the basil and prepped the ingredients on my own. It was Sunday evening, and we’d had a busy weekend that included a trip south to pick up my sister for a visit. Comfort food was a must.

And for me? Creamy, well-seasoned risotto that’s dotted with fresh herbs and veggies is the epitome of comfort food. It’s also my go-to for nights when I have extra time to devote to cooking and really want to be in the kitchen.

Have you ever made risotto? In terms of cooking techniques, risotto requires a certain level of patience that I usually don’t lend to cooking. It forces you to slow down and take your time –

liquid is added to the rice by the ladleful. After each addition, you pause, wait and let the rice absorb it all before adding another ladleful. There’s a sound it emits when the rice ready for more — a slightly melodic hiss that I always listen for. That’s how simple ingredients like rice and chicken stock transform into a creamy, tender dish.

It’s one of the few times when multitasking is nearly impossible. You can’t step away or head to another room because doing so risks risotto ruin.

But the reward for your patience is a luscious dinner that’s brightened with the addition of fresh sweet basil and just cooked fresh peas. And here in Maine, where it’s cool most nights, risotto can be a perfect summer dish — especially when the farmers markets are selling beautiful peas and brilliant green basil.

Fresh really is best.

Fresh pea and basil risotto recipe

Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News, and resident cook. Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, Glamour.com and more.