Cauliflower Rice Lemon “Risotto” with Arugula Pesto


So what makes this cauliflower rice risotto? It’s creamy and decadent—all the things you hope for with a lot less calories and a lot less fuss.Classic risotto is made with Arborio rice and tons of cheese. This dish has neither. Instead, we’ll use cauliflower rice.

What Makes This Cauliflower Rice, Risotto?

Classic risotto cooks slowly and requires constant stirring. This cauliflower rice comes together in no time at all.

So what makes it risotto? It’s creamy and decadent—all the things you hope for with a lot less calories and a lot less fuss.

The pesto comes together in minutes and pairs perfectly with the tart lemon creaminess of the cauliflower rice risotto. You can also add it on top of grilled fish or veggies, on pasta, on crostini, on sandwiches—the list goes on and on. It’s simple, versatile and dairy free, too.

Check Out Andrea’s Other Delicious Recipes:

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Cauliflower Rice Lemon "Risotto” with Arugula Pesto
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins
So what makes this cauliflower rice risotto? It’s creamy and decadent—all the things you hope for with a lot less calories and a lot less fuss.
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 servings
For the "risotto"
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups riced cauliflower from 1 medium-sized head; see NOTE
For cashew/pine nut lemon “cream”
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 20 minutes or up to overnight, drained
  • 2 pine nuts, toasted (also called Pignoli nuts)
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (zest before cutting and reserve zest for garnish)
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
For the arugula pesto
  • 2 cups arugula, packed
  • 1 large clove garlic, halved
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, enough to combine
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, and turmeric; stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent and garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add broth followed by the white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let cook until liquid reduces slightly, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prep the cashew lemon “cream” by placing drained cashews, toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, salt & pepper in a high-speed blender. Add ¼ cup cold water and blend until smooth (if mixture is too coarse, add water 1 tablespoonful at a time and blend again until smooth). Set aside.
  4. Once broth has reduced slightly, add the “riced” cauliflower, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower softens, about 3 minutes (if mixture is too dry, top off with ¼ cup broth, as needed to soften). Add cashew lemon “cream” and stir to incorporate. Cook 1 minute for more flavors to come together. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Serve immediately topped with arugula pesto, extra pine nuts and a sprinkling of lemon zest for garnish (or simply garnish with fresh chopped parsley).
Recipe Notes

NOTE: To make the cauliflower “rice,” place washed, dried cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse a few times until mixture resembles rice. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 1 head of cauliflower will make about 3-4 cups of cauli-rice.

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Andrea Branchini was born with a pen in one hand and a whisk in the other. She built her career coming up with big ideas for blockbuster brands in healthcare. Her campaigns have reached millions, and one of her ads even made it to Cannes, where she was a top 10 finalist in Advertising Age’s under 30 Global Cover Competition (in 2011 when she was actually under 30—sigh). In February 2016, she launched a live cooking show on PeriscopeTV (@dabblingchef) where she unveils a secret ingredient on Mondays and spends that entire week dabbling in that ingredient. The show already has close to 1,000 followers and over 120,000 hearts! Her food career started by accident when she first microwaved a marshmallow, drizzled it with chocolate syrup and served it to her parents; a 7-year-old’s version of Pavlova. Since then, she has received her professional plant-based chef certification from Rouxbe Cooking School and has learned to write solid recipes through a certification program at Natural Gourmet Institute where she was taught by Dawn Perry, the former digital food editor at Bon Appétit magazine. Her food writing has been featured in The Strong Buzz with Andrea Strong;; Edible Queens;; and in The Oxford Encyclopedia on Food and Beverages in America (2nd edition) which won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award in the Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014 as well as the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014. In 2015, she received a growing leaders professional development award through The Culinary Trust, which landed her a cookbook: a national school garden cookbook for Slow Food USA with recipes and stories about rare fruits and vegetables from the US. A mom of 2, she is passionate about leveraging her advertising experience and recipe skills to rebrand fruits and vegetables for children of all ages. She lives with her husband and their 2 kids in a place that’s a stone’s throw away from Manhattan (she hates admitting that it’s called New Jersey.)