Risotto is a stunning Italian rice dish that’s bursting with rich flavors. The dish may be simple – hearty and nutty, arborio rice soaking in a flavorful broth with butter, wine, cheese, and mushrooms – but it is comfort food at its finest.
One spoonful of this creamy dish will always result in a smile. So, if you’re feeling a little blue, a delicious bowl of risotto is the dish for you.
If you want to serve risotto at your next get together, you’ll need to think of some dishes to serve with it. You can’t exactly just serve risotto on its own, because it’s basically just a rice dish (albeit a mind-blowingly good one).
But that’s what makes it so easy to come up with flavors that go well with it. Since its flavor profile is very basic, there are a variety of dishes you can serve with it. It’s like a blank canvas – so whether you go with meat, veggies, or citrus flavors, you can’t really go wrong.
If you need a little help coming up with options, we’re here to guide you. We’ve come up with a bunch of no-fail sides to transform your Risotto into a hearty and satisfying meal.
1. Roasted Shrimp
Rice yearns for some protein. The first on our list is an incredibly flavorful shellfish: roasted shrimp. This crustacean turns your risotto into a fancy dish, so this is a good option if you’re trying to impress your guests (or a date).
What’s great about shrimp is that it’s such an easy addition – it only needs a few minutes in the pan to cook! Simply top your risotto with a few pieces (depending on the size), and your dish is ready to serve.
2. Chicken Thighs
Next up on our protein list is crispy chicken thighs. Whether it’s deep-fried or oven-baked, some crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside chicken is exactly what your risotto needs.
Just imagine that crispy skin giving a nice contrast to the tender rice. If you want to keep things light, you can always opt for sliced chicken breast instead. Either way – it’s a perfect combo!
Picture this: A bowl of warm, creamy, and buttery rice, topped with plump, smoked, and savory sausage. Now doesn’t that sound perfect? You can use either your favorite sausage links or some crumbled sausage.
Prepare the sausage and keep it warm in a separate container ahead of the risotto. Once the risotto is ready, top it with the sausage links or crumbled sausage for a delicious meal.
4. Seared Scallops
What can we say, seafood really pairs well with risotto! Scallops are sweet, buttery, and tender – everything an ordinary bowl of risotto needs to make it extraordinary.
To cook, dry the scallops with a paper towel and cook them for a few minutes in a hot pan with butter. Give your scallops a nice sear so they caramelize beautifully. And that’s it, they’re ready to serve!
Whether it’s poached or fried, adding an egg to your risotto is all it takes to turn it into a complete meal. The key is to cook it to that perfect consistency so when you slice into it, it oozes out that gorgeous runny yolk and makes your risotto even creamier than it already is.
We know, risotto is already bursting with lots of cheese, but what’s wrong with adding more? When it comes to risotto, you can never go wrong with more cheese!
Our favorite cheesy addition? A dollop of ricotta. This cheese is so thick and packed with protein, it will make your risotto even creamier and more filling.
The greatest thing about beans is how accessible they are. In fact, you probably already have some in your pantry.
White beans are the best to pair with risotto, but chickpeas also work great. To prepare, rinse and drain the beans and add them to the risotto at the final 10 minutes of cooking.
While they’re cooking, they will soak up some of the flavors, making them taste oh so yummy. And since beans are primarily carbohydrates, they will make your meal extra satisfying.
8. Arugula Salad
We’ve been talking about meat a lot, so it’s time to include something for the vegetarians out there. One of our favorite veggie sides to serve with risotto is a simple arugula salad. It’s incredibly easy to make; it doesn’t even need dressing!
Just combine arugula, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice, and call it a day. If you want to make things more exciting, you can add some grated Parmesan cheese, shallots, and your choice of nuts (walnuts, pistachios, pecans, or hazelnuts will work great), and you’ve got yourself an irresistible salad.
9. Steamed Broccoli
This is perhaps the simplest entry on this list, but it’s also one of the best. Seriously, just steam some broccoli florets and stems, and you’re done. But, of course, you can add more flavor to it by mixing in some olive oil, salt, and feta cheese.
What’s great about broccoli is that it’s loaded with nutrients and fiber – making it a great partner to risotto, in both taste and nutrition.
10. Pea and Mint Soup
Even if your risotto contains peas already, it’s okay to double down on this tasty veggie! Pea and mint soup can offer a refreshing and vibrant flavor that goes really well with the rich and heavy rice dish.
11. Roasted Veggies
Let’s end this list with a pop of color, shall we? And where else would we get such vibrant hues than from some bright and nutritious veggies? Not only are vegetables good for the body, but they also taste great too, especially when roasted to perfection.
When picking what vegetables to use, go for a combination of different colors, such as broccoli, red peppers, sweet potatoes, and red onion. Drizzle them with some olive oil and flavor with salt and pepper, pop in the oven, and roast. That’s all it takes to make this fantastic risotto side.