Fourscore and seven years ago, I ate my very first risotto at Olive Garden. It was like nothing I had ever tried – rich, creamy, sticky, zesty, full of shrimp and suuuuper filling. I’ve been wanting to re-create a healthful version of this dish for ages, and you’uns…the time hath cometh.
Can we all take a second to wrap our brains around this meal? At first glance, it seems complicated, but when you zoom out of the details, it’s actually quite simple.
The basic gist is that we’re making a mock alfredo sauce out of dry chickpeas in order to keep it nutritious and dairy-free. The sauce includes some ingredients you may not be accustomed to (such as white miso paste and nutritional yeast), but I assure you, it’s worthy of introducing yourself to the new goods.
In addition, we’re making risotto using parsnips instead of…well…risotto. To do this, we spiralize up a bunch of parsnips using a spiralizer, and then chop the noodles into rice-sized bits. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can also chop the parsnips, put them in a food processor, and pulse until you get “rice.” Saute up the parsnip “rice” with asparagus and shrimp. Douse that risotto in our super healthy chickpea alfredo sauce and the big picture looks like a healthy, clean, fresh, well-rounded meal.
See? Super simple. <- Don’t kneecap me.
Aside from the fact that this recipe is entirely dairy-free, gluten-free, protein and vegetable-packed, and super delish, I developed it for an additional purpose. Healthy food with intention? Double whammy!
Each year the United Nations picks a topic of global interest, and they named 2016 to be International Year of Pulses. The term “pulses,” refers to nutritionally-packed edible seeds of legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, dry peas and beans. Pulses were selected because of their significant health, economic and environmental benefits. The hope of the 2016 IYOP is to raise awareness of pulses as a globally accessible and affordable source of protein and other essential nutrients. More information on IYOP can be found here.
Gearing up for 2016, each country was charged by the UN to submit one pulse recipe to represent their country. The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, which is the body selected by the UN and Global Pulse Confederation to manage International Year of Pulses in the U.S., reached out to me to develop a recipe to be in the running. With your help, my recipe could be selected as the National Signature Pulse Recipe for the U.S.! Just go to the USADPLC Facebook page, and vote for mine by “liking” this photo.
Now go get your grain-free, pulse-infused risotto!
Parsnip Risotto with Chickepea Alfredo Sauce + Shrimp, Asparagus, and Split Peas
Chickpea Alfredo Sauce:
- 1 cup dry chickpeas 2 cups cooked
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 1-½ cups water*
For the Parsnip Risotto:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds parsnips peeled and spiralized
- 2 cloves large garlic minced
- ½ bunch asparagus trimmed and chopped
- ½ pound raw shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1-¼ cups chickpea alfredo sauce see recipe above
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ½ cup cooked split peas see note
- Fresh lemon
Prepare the Chickpea Alfredo Sauce:
Cook chickpeas according to package instructions (see note)**.
Add cooked chickpeas, along with the remaining ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend 90 seconds to 2 minutes, until sauce is completely smooth. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Note: you will end up with about 2 cups of chickpea alfredo sauce. You only need 1-¼ cups of the sauce for this risotto - save remaining sauce for future recipes for up to 1 week in a sealed container.
Prepare the Parsnip Risotto:
Cook 1 cup of dry split peas according to package instructions, and reserve ½ cup of the cooked split peas for this recipe (see note)***.
Peel the parsnips, chop them into quarters, and place them in a food processor. Pulse until you get rice-sized pieces (alternatively, spiralize the parsnips, then chop the noodles).
Heat the olive oil over medium and add the chopped asparagus. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the parsnip “rice,” garlic, and shrimp. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is cooked through and parsnip rice has softened.
Add 1-¼ cups of the chickpea alfredo sauce and stir to combine. Cook another 3 minutes, until risotto reaches desired texture.
Taste risotto for flavor and add sea salt as desired. Add the cooked split peas and stir well. Serve with fresh slices of lemon for drizzling.