Baked risotto

For those of us who don’t like to stand and stir, this is an easy quick-mix approach to risotto. It probably shouldn’t be called a risotto, and I’m sure the purists will be horrified at the thought, but somehow ‘baked savoury rice’ just doesn’t have the same appeal– that sounds like some awful concoction served in old boarding school dining halls, whereas this is a comforting scoop of warm, cheesy Italian flavours.

Ingredients

  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200 g (7 oz) pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 medium eggplant (aubergine), about 300 g (10½ oz), diced
  • 1 red capsicum (pepper), about 300 g (10½ oz), diced
  • 220 g ( oz/1 cup) arborio rice
  • 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 bocconcini (fresh baby mozzarella cheese), about 80 g ( oz), chopped
  • 50 g ( oz/½ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). You will need a large flameproof casserole dish, about 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) in capacity.

Heat the olive oil in the casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, pancetta and thyme and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft and golden. Add the eggplant and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to ensure that it cooks evenly.

Add the capsicum and rice to the dish and stir for 1 minute before adding the stock and lemon zest. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Stir once to combine, then cover with the lid, transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and scatter the chopped bocconcini and grated parmesan over the top. Return to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.