Cheesy Risotto Bites with Pesto Dipping Sauce

Servings: about 24 balls

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

*Your Chef will lead you through all the techniques, so prepping ahead of class is optional


Ingredients for the risotto

  • 6 cups vegetable stock, kept warm in a sauce pot
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot or small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the pesto dipping sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup blanched, unsalted almonds
  • 2 cups Italian parsley, lightly packed, tough stems removed
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil, as needed
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Ingredients for the arancini

  • 4 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar (or your favorite flavor), cut into 24 (1/2-inch) cubes
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ quarts canola or vegetable oil
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. To make the risotto: Heat the olive oil in a deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add in the shallot and garlic and stir, cooking until the shallot softens and becomes translucent.
  2. Pour in the arborio rice and stir everything together. Cook while continuously stirring, until the rice grains look pearly.
  3. Pour the wine into the pan stir until the rice has absorbed all of the wine.
  4. Add the stock, a ladle or two at a time to the pan with the rice and stir in a clockwise direction. When most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, continue to add a ladleful of stock. Allow the rice to continuously absorb the liquid before adding more stock.
  5. Once the rice is cooked through and the risotto looks creamy without being too saucy, stop adding stock. You may use the entire amount, but it is important to continuously check for the correct consistency throughout the process.
  6. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a sheet tray lined with parchment and refrigerate until cold (for best results, refrigerate overnight).
  7. To make the pesto: Place the garlic and almonds in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until the almonds are broken down to lentil sized pieces. Add the parsley along with the zest and juice of the lemon and process until parsley is chopped finely. Turn the processor or blender on slow speed and slowly drizzle in olive oil until it reaches the consistency of cold tomato sauce. Taste and season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes (if desired) and more lemon juice as needed.
  8. To make the arancini: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan to about 350°F.
  9. After the risotto is completely chilled, cut it into about 24 pieces then shape each one into a ball. Flatten them slightly in your hands and place 1 cube of cheese in the center before reshaping it into a ball. Repeat until all of the risotto is used.
  10. Put the flour into a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place the eggs in a separate shallow bowl and the panko, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a third shallow bowl.
  11. Roll each ball in the flour then the eggs and finally the breadcrumbs, making sure they’re evenly coated.
  12. Working in batches, fry the arancini until golden brown all around, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and season with salt right out of the pan. 
  13. Serve the arancini with the pesto sauce for dipping.