Risotto with Zucchini and Lemon (Dairy free option, Vegan option, Grain free option, GF)


First, we do a recipe…because goodness knows my notes on Italy so far are super long and you’re not going to want to scroll through them all to get to the food! :)

So, Risotto with Zucchini and Lemon. There are several different ways to do this recipe to accomodate a variety of different diets.

 I’m going to do my best to write the options as clearly as possible.



Essentially, what you need to keep in mind,  is that you need to cook the rice or quinoa separately from the vegetables and prosciutto if you are using it.  At the end of the recipe, you stir everything together.  This allwos for separate flavour experiences instead of everything becoming one homogenous soupy mix. Also, this is a cheaters risotto.  Southern italians don’t eat alot of risotto, its more of a northern dish.  So, rather than have you sit and stir the rice for 45 min or so,  you’re going to use a southern cheating method.  Granted, the starches won’t be released in the same way so the mix will be a touch less creamy, but its a good time saver. :) So, first step, we cook the rice.  While the rice is cooking,  you can prepare the other ingredients.



  • 1 cup of carnaroli, arborio or other risotto rice.  No, you can’t use basmati or regular white rice,  or asian sticky rice or brown rice.  It won’t have the same result.  (Now, if you are grain free, use quinoa.  It will be more of a quinoa salad but just as tasty).
  • 3 cups broth.  Vegan:  vegetable broth. Carnivore: Chicken broth.
  • 1/2 cup white wine (Sulfite free: use more broth)
    1. Put the rice in a deep sauce pan and cover it with 2 of the 3 cups of broth.  Put a lid over it, and turn up to medium heat.  Let simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.  Check / stir periodically to see if its sticking to the bottom, or drying out (add more broth as you go).
    2. Grain free: either pre-soak the night before or 1-2 hours ahead, the quinoa to remove the saponin, or rinse thoroughly.  Use the same amount as you would the rice.  Cover with your choice of broth and cook with lid on medium heat.  Check /stir periodically to see if it is sticking or getting dry, and add more broth as needed.
  • 5-6 small zuchini (about 1 inch diameter.  Otherwise only use 1-2 medium ones)
  • spoonful of olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Vegan:  2 onions,  finely sliced   Carnivore:  3 strips prosciutto (its very salty, so you don’t need much more)
  • Dairy : 1/4 cup chopped asiago cheese Vegan/ Dairy Free : 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  1. While your rice or quinoa is cooking,  place your onion (with a spoonful of oil), or prosicutto in a separate pan on medium heat.  Caramelize the onion till it is a deep golden brown and is very sweet.  (It might take a little time.  You might want to start on the zucchini separately while your onions are caramelizing).  Prosciutto:  cook in the pan until crispy.  Remove either filling and put aside.
  2. Chop the zucchini in 1/4 to 1/8 inch rounds. Add the zucchini to an empty pan with 1-2 spoonfuls olive oil.  Make sure the pan is on at least medium heat.  You want the bottoms to be golden and starting to crisp, but not to let the zuchini get weepy.  You want it firm. Higher heat will achieve this- the outside will cook before the inside.  Cooking should take about 10-15 min or so, depending on the size of your zucchini and thickness.
  3. Hope you’re still checking on your rice/ quinoa :) .  You want it firm, but not crunchy inside. If its still crunchy, continue adding broth.  When its of a consistency you like, briefly turn up the heat to high and add the wine.  Give it a stir so it evaporates.  Turn the heat back down to medium.  Add in the lemon juice,  and stir in either the cheese cubes or nutritional yeast.  Stir in the zucchini, and caramelized onions if you did onion.  If you did prosciutto,  crumple it over top before serving.
  4. Done. :)  In the words of Wierd Al- Eat It
Hey- wanna know how lovely it is here on the Amalfi coast?
 See a few photos of Ischia
Scroll Down for Travel Notes…

Random thoughts / stories on Italy so far…

  • Italians seem to play more of the older pop songs on their radio stations than we do.  Eric Claptions “If I Could Change The World” came on.  I forgot how much that song twinges in my chest. :)
  • i can hear the rumble of the ocean from my room at night. marvellous to sleep to.
  • “…Sun sank, red disk of hosannas…”  (J.Winterson) yes. thank you jeanette.
  • there’s alot of beauty spas here because of the natural hotsprings. italians seem to think calling these places “Beauty Farm” entices the english speakers.  um.  not so much lol.  makes me feel like a cow heading to the barn. lol.
  • i still can’t get over the elegant charm of the older italian men.  lovely.
  • i threw out my old canadian bathingsuits and bought these beaaaautiful italian ones.  so there i am, trying to be cool and sauntering over to my beach chair. Nonchalantly I sit down, feeling all elegant in my newfound hotness. I must have sat on the wrong part of the chair.  Said chair flips over me, my legs tossed over my head, falling over backwards.   It was a perfect yardsale in front of the italians who languidly stretched on their chairs. Hi. Yah. don’t mind me. Awkward Canadian here . lol.  i am so not cool. Not now, or ever haha.
  • clearly my nonna’s face that i inherited is serving me well.  i had no less than 5  italians ask me for directions in the street yesterday. WOOT! i pass!  i now officially fit in as an italian.  :D sweeeet. siiinking under the radar…..
  • why do i bother packing any clothes- i just throw them out anyhow when i see the beautiful italian stuff.  when will i learn. ;)
  • walking by a family yard and a toddler ran outside to his nonna- ‘Disgraziato!” she hollered laughing at him with his face full of breakfast all over it.  He laughed back and then the mother fell over laughing.  Only in italy can you call someone a disgrace and everyone keels over in mirth.  I continued walking and chuckling privately.  I love you people.
  • the salt water on my skin is so awesome.  i’m actually going without my comforting shield of makeup. ahhhh. happy.
  • walking the other night on the cement walkway by the water in the darkness i saw two old figures sitting on a bench together.  She had her arm around him and was singing to him in a low, sweet, hushed voice.   it was an old song. it was beautiful. (who truly knows the beauty of singing to their loved ones anymore? ).  the moment stunned me in its simplicity and sincerity.  he rested his head on her shoulder as he listened to her.  i slowed my walk  not to disturb them.
  • Yesterday on the beach i was busy reading gennaro’s cookbook (coastal recipes while on the coast- perfect inspiration).  I was halfway through a dessert recipe when this steady tenor behind me caught my attention.  it was a group of older italians. one of the husbands was singing old napoletane folk songs to them, and they joined in on the familiar parts, clapping as they went.  he had a natural vibrato that only old italian men have.  he continued alone.  i pretended not to notice,  as i leaned over my chair tears escaped splashing on to my stupid cookbook.  I can’t tell you how much i miss this.  I remember relatives that sang.  I come to italy to reconnect with the ghosts of my family more than anything.  Its true- us ‘north americans’ who travel alone are a bit lost.  i’m not lost in this world, not lost for goals, not lost for direction or between jobs or out of school or lacking roots or aimless or lacking loved ones.  I’m lost for missing the days when I too would hear my papa randomly break into song around the table.  I’m lost for my nonna’s laugh.  i’m lost for my zia elisa and the loving way she would slightly pinch my cheek when her and dino would come to visit at my nonna’s house.  i’m lost for the way my older cousins paola, olivia, lennie, cindy… would play with the child i once  was.  i’m lost for the dinners and after dinner walks with my uncle pete or rita or maria all the way to Dairy Queen.  I’m lost for the italy i once had in my little life and now hangs in ghostly vapours about me.  I look for it  in this land where the echoes of my family reverberate in familiar strangers about me.  its no secret.  i travel searching for them.  thats my small ‘lost’.  Perhaps that is why i save my dad’s village for last.  i love it so deeply, the only place i can go after is back home to canada- any second away from my beloved cousins in the village who still remember what the closeness of family really is, any second away from that out site seeing on my own is too much time.  Ah Ovindoli.  The village where time stops and the world spins around outside in constant change.
  • there is a peculiar beauty to the older folks in italy. its no secret– i prefer their company to those my own age.  i love the older italians.  they are from the culture i remember.  the young ones, i don’t quite understand- their italy is different than the one i was raised with.  older people, however, they are like my family whenever i meet them.
  • haha.. a funny story about italian dramatics… Fireworks at the terrace today.  older ladies came and just berated amerigo the host because how DARE he let others take the spot by the sea when they have been coming for years and how disrespectful and his parents would treat them better … and yelling. and on. and on. and on.  my canadian sensibilities started chafing in discomfort in this dramatic display of conflict.  i scurried over to the English ladies i’d met the night before and wanted to show them a recipe i had found, in an attempt to distance myself from the shrill staccatto splatter of yelling.  (i mean, it was lunch time, where else were they going to go anyhow? ).  I’m not used to such displays. where i’m from, either put up and shut up or quietly go somewhere else so as not to cause offense.  (ahh i have weeks to go yet before i get re-used to italian dramatics :) ).    The women got up in an angy huff and continued berating amerigo and shrilly yelling at him inside.  Then, not 5 minutes later,  they’re back outside, and the ring leader throws her arms around him and is kissing him affectionately on the cheek saying how wonderful he is.  (her friend whispered to me ‘ she’s all varechina(bleach), and really, we should pay her for that show.  what an actor!’).  I was still a bit shaky from all the yelling.  Never mind the fact that when one italian is mad, all the others crowd in and start asking whats going on so they can join in the chaos and start yelling too.  Drama Queens, all of them.  Steve the american bar tender just kinda laughed and walked away a bit baffled.  Amerigo pulled out the classic mollifying italian charm and sweet talked the ladies into new seats, and suddenly all was calm again,  hence her throwing her arms around him and kissing him.  Except me and the English ladies shaking our heads. freakin italians. (sensitive little alea needs to go take a break now.  i really can’t deal with public yelling. thats my nice canadian side ;)  ).
  • The gentleman who was serenading us on the terrace yesterday walked up to me this morning excited to say hello and shake my hand .  He promised he’d sing a song just for me this time. ( ahh here comes the chaaaaarm i was telling you about).  then later he sees me typing away here trying to put up this blog post.  What are you doing? he asks.  I explain i have a website where i tell everyone about what i see and the food i make.   “Oh!! che bello!!” he grabs my face and kisses my cheek.  “What a sweet young girl you are!!”.  Actually, little girl, to be exact (bella bimba). Haha.  Who’s going to tell him i’m almost 34? lol.   And THEN in classic south italian style, he rushes to the next single anglophone girl and proceeds to work his magic there too.  Amerigo laughs.  In his italian accent “You arre, a playyyboy.”   Then the gentlman walks over to poor american steve the bar tender, and lectures him about how he needs to hook up ‘with one of these nice ladies’.  (figures. how could i not have predicted that ). lol.  poor steve.  then again, not poor steve- those old italian dudes know what they’re doing, they’re totally going to hook him up sooner or later haha.
  • So i’ve officially ingratiated myself with the older italian folks here. excellent. I am officially very happy. :)  they bring out my soft side.  always will.
  • ahahaha funny moment.  bar tender steve just jumped in the ocean with all the old italian women.  amerigo is laughing his guts out  and calling me over to “watch the show!  you gonna know that poor guy is going to get eaten alive…”   I can just see the ladies circling him…. “Ohhh quel bel ragazzo con gli occhi azzurri!”  ” Ohh look at the beautiful boy with those blue eyes!”. haha. the pirhanas are going eat him alive. this i gotta go see ;) back in a sec.
  • How do you not love italy?  i mean, seriously.
Random thoughts on food…
  • I really don’t like the taste of water here.  i don’t know why.  its almost like water from home is lighter and sweeter?  i don’t know.  I know i’ve been getting dehydrated but just can’t drink how heavy it is. and then brainstorm. add lots of lemon. now i’m chugging it like nobody’s business.
  • gennaro had this awesome recipe where you marinate duck or chicken breast in lemon juice , lemon zest, and 8 oz of limoncello liqueur,  then drain the marinade to the side,  sear/ panfry the breast skin side down till golden and cooked, pour over the marinade and reduce.  GORGEOUS.  i’m going to go get me some limoncello!!  (you can also find it at the LCBO in Ontario, guys.  its a sweet lemon liqueur.  beautiful stuff.)
  • flavour idea i saw- milk and mint?  how unusual.  i need to play with that.
  • a neat salad i need to make dairy free- it was like a  slaw-  had shredded celeriac or turnip of some kind, diced apples, kalamata olives, and walnuts.  I bet some celery in there would be great and a squeeze of lemon. lovely.

Random Thoughts on life so far…

  • Vacations make me think about where my life is going.  I can’t have it all- even though i want it. I’ve spent so much time pursuing my side business with GF allergen free treats plus working full time-  i don’t see my family as often as i need. I know this because when i see my little beanie-boy nephew my heart kind of breaks when i hug him from missing him so much.  I don’t do leisure.  I don’t cook properly for myself.  This must change– but i don’t yet know how.  I  see both my nephews, loves of my life, growing so fast and their babyhood slips through my fingers as i spend days and nights in my kitchen away from them. It must not be so. Time with cousins (Shawna! Kysha! Tal! Ben! Josh! Sam! Mat!), aunts and uncles has completely left me in pursuing this business.  I miss them very much.   I miss the big dinners we would do.  This must not be so. i miss them. all of them.
  • Always, always, always peel your fruit in italy.  Not only is it a sign of good manners, but its considered proper hygiene.  Don’t bite into apples or peaches- you need to peel them here.
  • Maybe its rude not to haggle but i refuse to do it to the migrant workers selling stuff on the beaches. if i like something i will buy it full price. for goodness sakes, i have a job to go home to and healthcare.  these guys, they have nothing.  who am i to ask for a few euros less?  how could anyone do that and sleep at night?
  • the host family that owns this resort is so wonderful. amerigo and his brothers and their parents are phenomenal.  i can’t bear to ask them anything though.  i just see how hard they work and the long hours they put in and think,  go home. go see your babies. i’m fine.  don’t worry about me.  even now i feel a bit overwhelmed at the work they do. its not an easy life, hotel business.
  • I’m very slowly starting to like lying in the sun and switching off.  I can only do it for an hour or so right now before jumping up with something i ‘need’ to do, but its better than 2 days ago when the thought of lying around started stressing me out with To Do lists the very second i sat down.  Now i bring a book to write the lists down and i find it a bit calming. (btw, luilui if you are reading this can you please water my plants? i forgot! and tell mom and dad to let the neighbors know about houseguests?  i forgot. Oh and tell wayne if he can figure out my fridge shelf that i managed to deconstruct, i will owe him forever lol)  Argh. i still need to send recipes out to my last ladies workshop. (ladies, dip recipes coming, i promise!)
  • i need to get off of Twitter and Facebook.  Seeing all the upcoming craft fairs i’m missing out on participating in and all the exciting accomplishments and inventive recipes that are going on and all the new community tv series coming up makes me feel like i’m missing the boat, when really, i need to follow where my gut is taking me.  Its taken me here. I need to be here. fully here.  Sometimes i want to do too much too fast and forget there is a time and place for everything.  Even if it means missing out on stuff like Feast of Fields, Urban Craft, Local Artisan Food Fair , Capital Cupcake Camp…. and on and on and on….
  • It really is difficult for the southern italians here to wrap their heads around a single girl travelling alone.  Still getting looks everywhere. Why is it so awful to travel alone?  I don’t get it.  I don’t even really want to venture into restaurants here because of the staring- i can make great stuff myself.
  • Got the coolest gift for my fabulously artistic melone cousin Paola….  the melones are a distant part of my family (my paternal grandmother’s mother’s family. ie, great grandmother’s family), but i love them so very much.  they are a bunch of deeply artistic, academic, slightly rebellious but always beautiful people.  I can’t wait to see her. They are people who speak my language of being an outsider. lovely.  Paola you better not be reading this :D  Otherwise you are about to find out i got you the most AWESOME alexander mcqueen hardcover edition of the nyc metropolitan museum of art exhibition.  and a beautiful silk scarf with aboriginal art. :D i can’t wait to show you.
  • Ischia and winding down is so necessary right now.  It will get me ready for Rome. Rome is next! and a walking tour with a National Geographic photographer (eeee!!! i can’t wait).  After that, its Ladispoli, then San Gimignano, then a surprise 4 day road trip with my friend Kelly who i haven’t physically seen for over 10 years. craaaazy.  we’ll be meeting up at the Rome trainstation. I envision a few girlish shrieks. :)  (i’m thinking Thelma and Louise but better sunglasses)  and finally time with my beautiful cousins in Abbruzzo. (my heart contracts just thinking of stepping foot in my father’s village again. i miss the ghosts of my grandparents. so much).
  • Looking along the way, at some point ,if i can, to find a small church in an abandoned village.  Perhaps the casale outside ovindoli might be best.  I need to be alone to thank a ghost for their kindness. Thank you, iowa.
  • I love. love.love.love. My Girls. ( my camera lenses!! i refer to nothing else! lol) Mel- you were so right. the 24-70 f/2.8 was the best purchase, ever.  Now GET OUT HERE so we can shoot together!  Epic times await. Don’t even think twice about it.
  • I’m already thinking of extending my stay a week. we’ll see.  Stuff like this happens once in a life time and i don’t want to go home wishing i’d cut it short.  Cash or not! I’ll find a way to pay for it when i get home lol. (tax writeoff?  pretty please?  ah. no such luck.)
  • i need to eat more meat.  my mood was crashing last night and i couldn’t figure out why- i was feeling sorry for myself like nothing else.  and then i realized i’d been eating only vegetables, fruit and some dairy with only a tiny bit of tuna once a day.  dumb idea.  i can’t do that.  I was trying to rely on fat from dairy to make up the difference, even though i really can’t tolerate dairy so well.  (hey, travelling gluten free is enough of a challenge.  throw in dairy and its really not so easy. ).  Anyhow, i splurged and had a huge dinner of octopus salad,  grilled squid and zuchini, and this afternoon found a butcher and stocked up so that i could have grilled yellow pepper and hand made sausage for lunch.  Mood is awesome and stable. Much better.  Those espressos i was having with honey weren’t exactly the best idea, i must admit.  Sugary stuff and caffeine don’t treat me too nicely.  aaaand onwards! :)
  • oh. the italians have just entered the reception area.  they’re singing again.  i must go. :)