Italian Quinoa Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes & Pesto
September 23, 2019
By Elizabeth Palmer Califano

The traditional Northern Italian dish risotto dates back to the 1800s and is loved the world over for its rich, creamy texture and comforting flavor profile. Typically made with rice, broth, and lots of delicious parmesan and butter, this dish is hard pressed to make a healthy food list.

But this adapted version, made with gluten-free quinoa and a clever creamy dupe made with pureed beans, hits all the same profile and texture notes without any of the health pitfalls. This recipe is both vegan and gluten-free and can easily be made on your own with the addition of grated parmesan, sautéed shrimp, or additional vegetables. Quinoa and beans are both excellent sources of soluble fiber and protein, making this recipe especially filling and satiating. 

Serves: 4

Total Time: 30 minutes



  • 4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 2 cups cooked white beans or chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ cups raw quinoa 
  • ½ cup unsweetened plain coconut milk 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup of your favorite pesto, to serve (optional)
  • Fresh chopped basil, to serve (optional)

Optional additions: caramelized onions, additional roasted vegetables (try zucchini or broccoli!), sautéed shrimp, grated parmesan cheese  

Plate of risotto with pesto and tomatoes on a wood table.


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the tomatoes and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until softened. Remove from the oven and set aside. 
  2. While the tomatoes roast, cook the quinoa according to package directions. Once cooked, keep covered and set aside.
  3. In a blender or food processor, blitz the white beans with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until completely smooth. Add a splash of water if needed to blend it smoothly. 
  4. Over low heat, add the bean puree to the cooked quinoa, along with the coconut milk. Stir well to combine, heating until warm; you should have a silky, creamy mixture resembling risotto. Add more coconut milk if it seems too thick. 
  5. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed.
  6. To serve, divide the risotto between four bowls, and top evenly with the roasted tomatoes and garlic and their juices. Spoon over pesto if desired, and top with the chopped basil. Enjoy!

Note: If preparing this recipe in advance, the risotto will thicken up considerably in the fridge. To reheat, just add more coconut milk or water until the desired consistency is achieved. 

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About the Author

Elizabeth Palmer Califano
Elizabeth is a graduate of Hamilton College and The French Culinary Institute, as well as an avid world traveler and dinner party hostess. For more information, visit her website: