Quinoa Risotto Primavera

Finely chopped cauliflower makes this risotto-style quinoa a rich, creamy seasonal delight.

quinoa risotto primavera with carrots and peas

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Primavera means spring in Italian. In Italy, risotto primavera, creamy rice studded with colorful baby vegetables, includes slender carrots, the season’s first green peas, and zucchini the size of your little finger. Served slightly al dente, it is a traditional springtime dish. But making risotto requires constant attention for the better part of an hour to get the rice to the right creamy texture. So looking through a stack of recipes, I noticed one for a quinoa risotto that cooked in 20 minutes and required minimal stirring. Another recipe in my pile combined finely chopped cauliflower florets with bulgur. What about mixing finely chopped cauliflower with the risotto-style quinoa? I thought. Cauliflower could give the quinoa some of the creaminess that makes risotto appealing. So on a day when spring was in the air, I combined elements of these two dishes, and quinoa primavera blossomed.

Quinoa Risotto Primavera
(Makes 8 servings)
quinoa risotto primavera with carrots and peas


  • 2 ½ cups cauliflower florets, cut in 1-inch pieces, stems well-trimmed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • ⅔ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 ½ cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided*
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced baby carrots
  • ½ cup frozen baby green peas
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped flat leaf parsley

*Using chicken broth gives this dish a rich flavor. I wish I could say “or use vegetable broth,” but in most commercially made vegetable broths, carrots dominate and the flavor overwhelms the sweetness of the vegetables. If you are vegetarian, try substituting warm water for the broth and adding extra cheese at the end for a better result.


  1. Place cauliflower in food processor. Pulse until cauliflower resembles crumbled feta, about 15-20 pulses; there should be 2 cups chopped cauliflower to set aside. Use leftover to add to soup or salad.
  2. In heavy, wide, large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until grain makes constant crackling, popping sound, about 5 minutes. Carefully add 2 cups broth, standing back as it will spatter. Cover, reduce heat and simmer quinoa for 10 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower, carrots and ½ cup hot broth and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add peas and enough broth to keep risotto soupy, about ¼ cup. Cook 8–10 minutes, or until quinoa is al dente or to your taste and vegetables are tender-crisp, adding broth ¼ cup at a time, as needed. Risotto is done when liquid is mostly absorbed and mixture is slightly wet, but not soupy. Off heat, stir in cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve. Leftover risotto keeps for three days, covered in refrigerator, and can be served at room temperature as a whole-grain salad.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving

Calories: 120
Total fat: 4.5 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Carbohydrate: 14 g
Protein: 5 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 280 mg

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