This creamy, dreamy white bean risotto features lots of garlic, onion, black pepper, and a crunchy herb breadcrumb topping.
I love risotto SO much, and I'm always looking for unique twists on the dish, like my smoky farrotto or this white bean variation. It’s a cozy combination of flavors easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but luxe enough for a date night.
The base of the risotto has a little bit of a cacio e pepe flare, featuring pecorino cheese and black pepper. But one or both of these can be omitted for a different flavor profile if you’d like (or to keep it vegan).
White beans: Most starchy white beans will do here. That includes cannellini beans, great northern beans, and ayocote beans. You can use canned beans, or cook them yourself from dried beans. If you cook them fresh, make sure to save the liquid! You can use it as broth for your risotto. I have a recipe here that details how to make cook dried beans.
Vegetable stock: To keep the dish vegetarian, I like to use vegetable stock or homemade bean broth.
Breadcrumbs: I love the crunchy texture of panko breadcrumbs, but freshly made breadcrumbs are also great!
Parsley: Fresh herbs really help brighten this dish. Parsley is the best pairing for these peppery, creamy beans. In a pinch, I’d use fresh basil as well.
Do I Need to Wash My Rice?
Washing rice removes those necessary starches used to achieve a creamy consistency in risotto. Do not wash the rice beforehand!
How to Make White Bean Risotto
First, you’ll do some prep chopping onions and garlic and heating vegetable stock on the stove.
Next, you’ll cook the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add in the rice and white beans, then pour in some wine to deglaze the pan.
- The next part of the process involves a lot of stirring! Add a ladleful of broth at a time, gently simmering the risotto, until the rice cooks completely and the sauce is creamy and thickened. If desired, stir in a bit of pecorino cheese for a little sharpness.
Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs with garlic, panko, and parsley.
Finally, plate it up. Serve the risotto in serving bowls and top with a little bit of crispy breadcrumbs.
Tips For Creamier Risotto
Just before serving, stir in some more pecorino cheese, add a splash of cream, or swirl in a few pats of butter to richen up the dish.
To richen the dish while keeping it vegan, blend half the beans until you get a smooth puree. Add the non-pureed beans as indicated in the recipe, but reserve the puree. Then, stir in the puree just before serving. Alternatively, you can add in a splash of non-dairy milk or vegan butter.
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White Bean Risotto
For the white bean risotto
- 4 to 6 cups vegetable stock, or homemade bean stock
- 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced to yield about 2 tablespoons
- 1 15.5-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained, cannellini or great northern beans work well here
- 1 cup risotto rice, arborio rice or carnaroli rice
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay or pinot grigio
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste, optional
- ½ to 1 cup pecorino romano cheese, optional, omit if vegan
For the white bean risotto
- Simmer the stock: In a large saucepan, heat 4 cups vegetable stock until gently simmering (you may need to add the remaining 2 cups later).
- Cook the onion: Meanwhile, set a medium dutch oven with 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 - 10 minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Reduce the heat as needed to minimize browning.
- Saute the rest of the ingredients: Add the garlic, and cook on medium-low heat for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the white beans and stir to incorporate. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash about half of the beans (this will help release the starches to make the sauce creamier), keeping the other half intact. Stir in the rice, and cook for 1 minute to allow the grains to toast slightly. Season with a pinch of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
- Simmer the wine: Add the white wine, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer. Let the wine reduce for 2 - 3 minutes until it's at half the original volume. Stir in the miso paste, if using.
- Cook the risotto: Add a ladleful (around ½ cup) of the warmed vegetable stock to the risotto and stir to incorporate. Simmer on medium-low heat until the liquid is almost fully absorbed, stirring occasionally. Season again with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add another ladleful of stock, stir, and continue repeating the process of simmering the rice gently, stirring occasionally, and adding more liquid once the previous liquid is absorbed. You want the liquid to be almost fully absorbed without the rice sticking to the pan. Keep repeating the process until the rice is al dente, about 25 - 30 minutes. The risotto should have the slightest bite in the center, but not taste gritty. The consistency should be creamy, and slightly liquidy, but not soupy. The creamy liquid should cling to the rice (and if it doesn't, you may need to continue simmering it for a few minutes to reduce more liquid). As the risotto cools, it will continue to thicken slightly.Note: During this process, you may need to heat the additional 2 cups of stock if you're running low.
For the herby breadcrumbs
- While the risotto cooks, make the herby breadcrumbs. Place garlic and parsley onto a small baking sheet and set aside.
- Heat a wide saute pan on medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in the breadcrumbs and layer evenly in the pan. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes, stirring frequently until breadcrumbs are evenly toasted and golden-brown in color. Err on the side of caution here, as the residual heat will continue cooking the breadcrumbs slightly.
- Immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to the baking sheet, stirring until all the garlic, parsley, and breadcrumbs are evenly mixed throughout. Season with salt and pepper and let cool completely.
Finish the risotto
- To finish the dish, remove the pan from the heat and stir in ½ cup of pecorino cheese. Add more pecorino if desired, then season with salt and pepper. I like my risotto on the peppery side to mimic the style of cacio e pepe, so I will often add about 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of black pepper (in total through the whole cooking process). If the risotto is too thick, you can stir in some residual vegetable stock.
- Serve: Top the risotto with a generous spoonful of breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve hot.