Six-lily Risotto

Preparation info

  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Everything on the Table

Everything on the Table

By Colman Andrews

Published 1992

  • About

Notwithstanding the fact that a notorious Berkeley-based organization of garlic enthusiasts calls itself The Lovers of the Stinking Rose, garlic and its relatives of course aren’t roses at all, but Liliaceae—members of the lily family. Thus the rather poetic name of this dish, which uses six different members of the clan. The black sesame seeds, which have practically no discernible flavor when used in this modest quantity, constitute a rather sophomoric gastro-literary joke, best appreciated by admirers of John Ruskin.


  • 1 head garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound pearl onions, peeled*
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, well washed and very thinly sliced 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 350°.

Rub whole garlic head well with a bit of oil, wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and bake for about 30 minutes.

Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Sauté pearl onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, and allow them to cook until they are added to the risotto.

At the same time, melt butter with a few drops of oil in a large, high-sided skillet, then sauté shallots and leeks over very low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

While shallots and leeks are cooking, bring stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

When garlic is cooked, slice off the top of the head, and squeeze garlic against a cutting board with the blade of a knife to extrude purée. Set aside.

Add raw rice to shallots and leeks, stir well until all grains are coated with butter and oil, and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Add about 1 cup of stock to rice and continue stirring until it is almost completely absorbed. Continue this process until rice is almost cooked and there is only about 1 cup of stock remaining, about 25 minutes.

Stir cheese, scallions, pearl onions, garlic purée, and a little of the remaining stock into the rice, season to taste, and continue cooking until risotto is thick and creamy but not overcooked or mushy.

Serve absolutely immediately in individual shallow bowls, with chives and sesame seeds scattered atop each serving.*

* To peel pearl onions, plunge into boiling water for about 15 seconds, rinse, cool, then slice off the root ends only and slip onions out of their skins.
It is impossible to predict the exact amount of liquid the rice will absorb, as this varies with the age and brand of the rice, the cooking temperature, and the cook’s philosophy of risotto (soupy or dry, al dente or tender). If you run out of stock before the risotto is completely cooked, a bit of hot water won’t hurt it.

* Risotto should be not only served immediately but eaten immediately. And never ever serve risotto in a big bowl such as you might use for pasta. In the time it takes to dish the risotto up, the portion at the bottom of the bowl will almost certainly turn to mush.