February 18, 2015

Orange-Hued Vegan Risotto with Kale Pesto. {Recipe & Photo Guide}


In her latest vegan concoction, Belén Vazquez Amaro gives the traditional Italian risotto a delicious vegan treatment.

The final dish of Freunde von Freunden’s Yogi Lunch series comes with a burst of colors and aromas. Rice, considered the king of grains by some, takes center stage when enhanced by veggie-creaminess and a touch of dark green kale pesto.

One of rice’s most appealing attributes is that it can wear a lot of hats, from simple and easy to intricately layered. The grain plays a great host to a wide range of ingredients and can either shine in the foreground, or give off subtle notes in the background.

Undoubtedly, this oriental grain offers a great base for culinary experimentation.

Hailed as the “treasure of swamps” since it thrives in marshlands, rice has been a venerable grain in the East and has witnessed a great number of religious rites, varying from location to location. From dedication to the sacred spirits of Japan to solemn ceremonies in India and sunbathing treatments in Indochina—it’s evident that this simple grain is quite indispensable.

Keeping this in mind, let’s get back to the risotto and it’s intriguing spin-off. Belén thought to play around with a traditional Italian dish, notorious for demanding masterful cooking.

“I tried making an alternative version of risotto where creaminess and richness are not sacrificed when replacing the white rice for brown and excluding the parmesan.”

In this case, Belén was able to achieve the thick consistency with a well-seasoned vegetable puree. To top it all off, she added a spoonful of homemade kale pesto with herbs and nuts for an extra punch. However, the rice remained the key player of the dish with its earthy, herbaceous flavors only being highlighted by the vegetables.

“How beautiful is the combination of orange and green! I always think in colors when cooking. When you eat in a vegan way, you have to be creative with alternatives, especially when you crave that indulgent Italian taste. You have to take into account the amount of moisture and the different levels of flavor in the original version.”

“This is definitely a healthy and colorful way to eat risotto, minus the guilt.”




For the risotto:

1 1/2 cup brown rice

8-10 carrots

A handful of leeks

1 garlic clove

12-14 cherry tomatoes

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

A pinch of chili powder

½ cup water

Olive oil

Sea salt

For the pesto:

4 green kale leaves

½ cup unsalted almonds

½ cup unsalted pistachios

½ cup olive oil

A healthy handful fresh basil leaves

A healthy handful fresh sage leaves

½ lemon

1 garlic clove

Sea or mountain salt


Cook the rice. Peel and slice the carrots, cut the tomatoes. Chop the leeks and the garlic clove.

On a saucepan drizzle some olive oil and add the veggies and spices. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook with water in medium to low heat for approximately 20 minutes until the carrots soften. Remove from the stove.

Place the cooked veggies into your blender or by using a manual mixer, mix until you get a creamy texture.

In a bowl, combine the cooked rice with the orange-colored veggie cream.

For the pesto, shred and rinse the kale. Place it in a food processor together with the fresh herbs, nuts, lemon and garlic. Add the olive oil and sea salt. Mix in high speed.

Serve a few spoons of orange risotto on a plate and add the kale pesto on top. You can grate some pistachios and add extra herbs as the “the final touch.”

Bon appetit!






This story is published on Freunde von Freunden. Find the complete step-by-step photos and more recipes on their website.

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Author: Effie Efthymiadi

Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photos: Marta Vargas

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