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A perfect way to use up summer squash, this creamy Zucchini Risotto is bright and fresh – so yummy! This is a great one pan dinner, or a perfect side.
Step by step photos and instructions below!
Zucchini is the star of this creamy risotto, and us a great way to use excess zucchini that we all seem to have during this time of year (the warmer months).
I make this ahead, and use it as a side dish, but I also cheerfully make it on the fly, because it’s one skillet, and dinner is DONE.
I am ALL about the one pan dinner lately, I just can’t get excited about spending hours in the kitchen prepping dinner.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Adaptable: You basically need 2 cups of zucchini. Try broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, or butternut squash.
- Affordable. Budget-friendly ingredients, and a great recipe for using up what you have on hand.
- Family Friendly: It has bacon in it. Seriously. Oftentimes I’ll add a little dry white wine right after adding the uncooked rice, but I leave it out when I don’t have it. I leave it out when cooking for kids, just in case!
Frequently Asked Questions
Check for dark green firm skins (soft skins will mean that it is going bad). Choose small to medium (up to 7 inches in length) for the best flavor.
I don’t think so. With a few hints and tricks (see the Notes box for my suggestions) you can make a great risotto, easily. You’ll need patience and to pay attention, but that’s really it!
It is not done cooking. Keep adding stock until it becomes tender. We are looking for firm, not mushy.
It can be, yes. Why? Because arborio rice is high in rice gluten (different to wheat gluten – a celiac can eat rice!! Stirring it constantly helps the starch from the rice dissolve into the sauce, making it creamy and delicious.
Risotto is usually served as an appetizer before the main course, but here in the USA, it can be a main course or side, depending on what is added. Start with grilled chicken, seared scallops or thinly sliced steak.
I have included step by step photos and instructions, as well as tips and tricks in the post. If you’d rather skip all that, scoot right on down to the full recipe card located at the bottom of the post.
Use hot stock. The heat helps maintain the starch content of the rice. Either keep it simmering in another saucepan beside you while you cook the risotto, or heat in the microwave.
You may use more or less stock than I used. You want your risotto to be creamy, al dente and not mushy.
Cook at the right heat – a gentle simmer is perfect, we don’t want a full-on boil!
For creamiest risotto, stir often.
Cooking at high altitude
Cooking time will be longer at higher altitudes, and you may need extra stock to be sure your rice cooks properly.
About the zucchini
After grating with a box grater, place zucchini in a colander, kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze as much water as you can out of your shredded zucchini.
Add a little lemon juice or lemon zest toward the end of cooking to brighten up the flavors.
Store risotto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
You can easily change this recipe up by using different vegetables. A yellow squash would work just as well if that is what you have, as well as asparagus, spinach or broccoli. Basically, any vegetable that will cook quickly in a skillet in a few minutes (so things like sweet potatoes wouldn’t work so well in this recipe). Since we wait until the very end to add it, it needs to be something that can cook quickly!
The full list of ingredients and quantities is found in the printable recipe card below.
- Chicken Stock. Make Your Own Chicken Stock or buy it. Or sub vegetable broth.
- Olive Oil. A little extra virgin olive oil is good, but light olive oils also work
- Butter. Salted.
- Onion. Finely dice this. This will form the basis of the flavor, along with the garlic and stock
- Garlic. While you can obviously use the stuff in a jar, for this – please use fresh. It is one of the major flavors in the risotto, and you will be able to taste the difference.
- Bacon. Thick or thin cut bacon is fine.
- Arborio rice. This is important, arborio rice (also known as risotto rice) has a high starch content, making it perfect for risotto as it helps blend the flavors and get that creamy consistency. It is an Italian short-grain rice.
Other long grain white or short grain rice will work but won’t be as creamy. It is definitely worth seeking out! Carnaroli rice is traditionally used, but it’s hard to find.
- Zucchini. Check out the FAQs for how to select the best zucchini. The ones I use are about 6 to 7 inches long, and weigh about 196 grams (about 7 ounces).
- Parmesan cheese. Shred your own if you have the option. Pre-shredded just doesn’t taste as good or melt the same way.
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- Wooden spoon
- Large Skillet
- Measuring jug
How to make this recipe
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The full list of ingredients, quantities and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.
Heat the chicken or vegetable stock in a medium saucepan, and keep warm over medium-low heat.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the onion and cook for 5 mins to soften.
Add the garlic and bacon and cook for another 5 mins, until they start to brown.
Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 mins.
Ladle in some hot broth about ½ cup at a time, stir and simmer until broth is absorbed into the rice. Continue adding stock, stirring regularly.
When adding the last ladleful of hot stock, add the grated zucchini and cook for another few minutes, until the rice is tender and creamy and the liquid is completely absorbed.
Remove the pan from heat, add the freshly grated cheese and 1 tablespoon butter.
Season with salt and black pepper before serving. Garnishing with fresh parsley, fresh thyme or any fresh herbs is awesome!
More delicious risotto recipes:
- Roasted Squash Risotto with Basil & Parmesan. Finished with basil and parmesan, this is a hearty side dish or a delicious vegetarian main course. Either way, it’s delicious!
- Garlic Parmesan Risotto Recipe. This Garlic Parmesan Risotto Recipe may be the star of the show we call “dinner” in this easy side – it’s sure to please the whole family!
- Mushroom Risotto. Creamy dreamy, herby and delicious, this mushroom risotto is perfect as a side, or even as a main dish!
- Chicken Risotto. A super easy and creamy Chicken Risotto recipe that is perfect for the whole family. Get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Boom!
- Spinach Risotto (with Lemon). Packed with flavor and super easy to make.
- Instant Pot Risotto: Get this classic Italian side dish, a dreamy, creamy risotto super fast, and hands OFF!
Zucchini Risotto (with Bacon)
- Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan, and keep hot.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium.
- Add the onion and cook for 5 mins to soften, then add the garlic and bacon and cook for another 5 mins, until they start to brown.
- Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 mins.
- Ladle in some stock about ½ cup at a time, stir and simmer until stock is absorbed into the rice.
- Continue adding stock, stirring regularly.
- When adding the last ½ cup of stock, add the grated zucchini and cook for another few minutes, until the rice is tender and creamy.
- Remove the pan from heat, add the cheese and butter
- Season with salt and pepper before serving.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Update: This recipe was originally published in June of 2018. It was republished with updated photos in September of 2022.