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Red Wine Risotto with Brie, Figs & Walnuts

Brie, fresh figs, walnuts, and red wine are a classic combination that I enjoy and one that I thought would work well in risotto. This dish is an elegant marriage of flavors: creamy brie, salty parmesan, the slight bitterness of toasted walnuts, the almost molasses-y sweetness of the dried figs and the crunch from their seeds, and the red wine in the background connecting every component together.

Speaking of red wine, I add it in three stages throughout the cooking process because I want the flavor of the wine to be highlighted. But use less or more wine depending on your tastes.

This dish is rich so serve it as a main with a simple salad dressed in red wine vinaigrette or as a side with chicken breasts cooked simply or a slice or two of pork tenderloin. Serves four.

2 TBS butter, unsalted

1 large shallot, minced

1 cup Arborio rice

9 dried figs, stems removed and chopped into pieces the size of raisins

1 to 1-¼ cups red wine (I use Cabernet Sauvignon but use what you like)

3 to 4 cups vegetable stock, homemade or low sodium

6 oz brie, rind removed and chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, reserve a few TBS for garnish

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, reserve a few TBS for garnish

Steep the figs in the red wine for 15 minutes. Remove the figs and set aside. Reserve the wine.

Heat a saucepan on low and add the vegetable stock. Do not simmer or bring to a boil.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium-low and add the butter. Add the shallots and sauté just until translucent. Add the rice and stir, coating the grains with the butter. Stir for one minute.

Add ½ cup red wine and stir for a minute or until the wine is mostly evaporated.

Add two ladles of the stock into the rice and stir gently. The rice will begin to absorb the stock. When most of the liquid is absorbed, add one ladleful of stock and stir. Repeat until the rice is tender but not mushy.

Add ¼ cup of wine and the brie and stir gently until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the last ¼ to ½ cup of wine and the figs, walnuts, and parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with the reserved walnuts and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) I normally eat the rind on brie cheese and you can certainly leave it on when you make this dish; however, it does add an unpleasant bitterness to the finished risotto.

2) Instead of brie, you can use fontina or creamy-style feta cheese instead.

3) If you’re not a fan of figs, add raisins or dried currants, cherries, or cranberries instead.

4) You can substitute water or chicken stock for the vegetable stock.

5) Make it vegan. Substitute olive oil for the butter and vegan parmesan and vegan chevre for the parmesan and brie (you should be able to find them at the market or on-line). You can also make your own vegan brie. While I’ve never made it, recipes are easy to find on-line. Keep in mind, however, many vegan cheeses are nut and/or soy-based, so avoid them if you are allergic to nuts and soybeans. If that’s the case, stir a few tablespoons of plain coconut yogurt into the risotto at the end to replace the creaminess of the brie.

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