Risotto. Sweet Potato Leek Risotto.

October 18, 2006



Risotto. It’a a genius dish. Sometimes it’s a mere sideshow, sometimes it’s a solo act with its name in lights. Sometimes it features glamorous ingredients, such as exotic mushrooms and truffles (yes, please!); sometimes it’s a more humble mix of rice and cheese. Whether side dish or main dish, whether with white truffles or white cheese, risotto is always delicious.

Channeling famed Italian chef Roberto Donna (more on that below), my husband has concocted his own fabulous and unique Sweet Potato and Leek Risotto. While it has not yet surpassed the place in my heart held by his delicious mushroom risotto, it is still a deadly quiver in his culinary arsenal.

It might sound strange to combine sweet potatoes and leeks in a creamy rice brew — I admit that I thought so. But as usual, I was wrong. The sweet potatoes don’t war with the leeks, as I thought they would. Instead, they both contribute their mild, sweet flavors to the starch party and mingle generously with the rice and other spices. The result is a colorful, delicious and sweetly flavored risotto that was a perfect side dish to the salty, savory sirloin-steak star that night. Ah, risotto. You’ve done it again. Read on for hubby’s recipe and more on Roberto Donna.



While not the greatest week of food writing by me, last week was a great deal of fun in the kitchen. It began with the chance to attend a cooking demonstration by DC’s reigning Italian Chef extraordinaire, Roberto Donna. For food lovers across America, he’s probably best known for his two appearances on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. (“I’m coming for you, Morimoto!”) To us in DC, this big man with an even bigger personality is best known as the owner-chef of one of the finest restaurants inside the beltway, Galileo.

Donna taught four dishes at the demonstration, and I put one immediately to use: risotto. Risotto is already one of my favorite dishes, and having him serve up his own version and speak so lovingly of it gave me insight into ways to improve my own. Don’t worry, I’m not stingy (and I took notes): Here are some pieces of advice Donna gave…

1. Use the right rice. While he also likes arborio rice, Donna recommended using vialone nano rice. Like arborio, it is an Italian, starchy, short-grain rice, but it has better texture and flavor than arborio. After using it, I agreed. He reminded us that the rice should be used within one year of the date on the label, and should be sealed in a vacuum pack — unless you want vermin.

2. Use warm stock or broth. If you use cold, you will slow the cooking time because each step will require the broth to return to temperature.

3. Don’t use a metal spoon to stir the rice because it’s more likely to break the rice into pieces. You want to keep the rice intact and maintain its structural integrity.

4. If you are in a hurry, toast your rice in advance. Do this by heating it in a warm skillet until it is fragrant. Once the rice has a nice nutty smell, move it to a bowl until you are ready to cook with it.

Watching Donna speak and discuss his passion was exciting — and it also served as a launching pad for a meal I was planning for my in-laws, who were coming into town. Fear not: This is not a horror story. In fact, it’s a pleasure — because it was at my in-laws’ table that I ate many “firsts.” They are great for peer pressure. Using what I learned from the master, Roberto Donna, I immediately put my own risotto into motion: Sweet Potato and Leek Risotto. The results are below. I hope you enjoy.

Sweet Potato and Leek Risotto


6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups vialone nano or arborio rice

1 cup champagne or sparkling wine

1 sweet potato (cubed and steamed)

1 leak (chopped)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme

1 tbsp. fresh chopped marjoram

3 tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. white pepper



1. Cube sweet potato and steam until potato pieces yield easily under the pressure of a fork or pairing knife. Approximately, 15 min.

(NOTE: You are pre-cooking the sweet potato because of its density. If you did not, it would likely never cook completely in the risotto.)

2. In a pot or large pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has stopped bubbling and has a soft nutty smell, add the chopped leek and salt. Cook until the leek has softened, about 2 min.

3. Add the rice and stir until it has absorbed the butter and begins to give off a soft aroma, 3-4 min.

4. Add the champagne and stir until the rice absorbs it.

(NOTE: I used champagne because that’s what I made for my in-laws, and the results were excellent. However, you may replace it. I used a champagne that had a nice spicy punch and added a good amount of flavor. Feel free to replace it with another white wine or even sake — you may need to adjust proportion — which I’ve used in a pinch.)

5. Add the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring regularly. You are looking for the broth to be fully absorbed before adding the next cup. It should take several minutes between each step. By the time you reach the last cup, it should be very viscous and the rice should be al dente (meaning it has a very slight firmness still to it).

(NOTE: You should begin tasting the risotto as soon as it begins to thicken, because the amount of broth needed may vary. If you are out of broth, you may use water.)

5. Once the risotto is al dente, add the black pepper, the white pepper, marjoram, thyme, and sweet potato cubes. Cover and turn down the heat to low and cook for 10 min. Add the parmesan cheese then salt to taste. Serve. Enjoy!


  1. Risotto is so tasty! Time consuming, but well worth the effort.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I also find that if you have an open kitchen like ours, its a good dish to work on while talking to your guests. It takes time and attention, not intense focus.

  3. I’m a risotto dunce! My risotto is either too mushy or too firm. I want to try your suggested rice variety and see if that makes a difference. As always, thanks for your helpful hints.

  4. In my experience, it is also important to really taste it a good deal while cooking. In this recipe, it says seven cups (1 cup wine + 6 cups broth), but after about 4 cups total, you need to start using your mouth. Its crucial you continue to test. It may be more, it may be less than the total here.

  5. I am with you on the tasting….it’s really the best measure of deciding whether your risotto is ready. I have had LOTS of duds in this area, and even when I master it I don’t get too confident. We just love risotto, all of us.

    Hmmmm……maybe I should make some!

  6. This looks delicious! We will definitely have to try this. But I think we’ll oven-roast the sweet potato cubes – I like the idea of contrasting textures.


  7. […] Lots of recipes to print out and keep for future reference from this week, like Slow Cooker Risotto with Swiss Chard from the Columbus Dispatch, Pistachio Tart with Fresh Figs and Honey Glaze from Blog Appetit, Linguine with Ham, Peas and Swiss Cheese from Cookin’ with Cyndi, Ricotta Fritters from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once, Mini Chocolate Mocha Bundt Cakes from Cookie Madness, Cheesecake with Apples and a Brulee Top from Cream Puffs in Venice, Bittersweet Chocolate Citrus Tart from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Slow Cooker Fajitas from Eating for One, Smokey Bones Baked Apples from WhiteTrashBBQ, Butternut Squash Soup from What Did You Eat?, Chicken Tikka Masala from Taste Everything Once, Friday Pasta from Lisa the Restaurant Widow, Creamy Potato Soup with Pancetta Croutons from Pork Cracklins, Sweet Potato Leek Risotto from My Husband Cooks, Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce from La Mia Cucina, Beef Stew with Chilis and Green Peppers from kayaksoup, and Delicata Squash & Sweet Potato Soup with Hazelnuts & Sage from Je Mange la Ville […]

  8. Hi!
    I just tried this, and it was fabulous! Out of curiosity, I tried one half with baked sweet potato and the other half with roasted butternut squash, and both were equally fabulous.
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    -Tanya (former lurker)

  9. Wow. I love hearing that you enjoyed it. Really, I think you hit on why this recipe has legs with the addition of the roasted butternut squash. The use of sweet potato to me is just a stand in for many of those great fall veggies like squash or pumpkin. Thanks so much for the feed back!

  10. I Found what looks to be an error in your above blog post:

    The part that contains the error:

    “I used a champagne that had a nice spicy punch and added a good amount of flavor. Feel free to replace it with another white wine or even sake — you may not to adjust proportion — which I’ve used in a pinch.”

    The specific error:

    “you may not to adjust proportion”

    What I think you meant to say:

    “you may not need to adjust proportion”
    “you may need to adjust proportion”

    Keep up the good work with your blog — it has really good presentation, interesting writing, and is quite enjoyable to read.


  11. Anonymous, thanks for alerting us to the error. I’ve made the adjustment. We try to edit the posts carefully, but sometimes stuff falls through the cracks!

    Thanks for your eagle eye.

  12. Hi i just wanted to say that i tried your recepie last night and it was fab, i’ve been looking for a sweet potato rissotto recepie since trying this dish at an great little place i found a couple of weeks ago while out helping my friend choose a wedding dress. It was a welcome treat after a lovely day. May i say i’m new to rissotto – there always seems to be something else that tickles my fancy so it was a very tasty suprise. I accompanied it with pan fried fillet of haddock that i’d marrinated in lime and corriander marrinade for about 12 hours – it was GORGEOUS!!! Arborrio rice worked fine aswell.

  13. OK so that was my first effort at risotto and it was a storming success (we finished the meal 10 minutes ago!). I followed your recipe but used Carnaroli risotto rice and added freshly podded peas with about 7 minutes to go. I teamed it with Waitrose lightly smoked salmon fillets, steamed with lime zest and black pepper, some steamed baby courgettes and asparagus. Thank you very much for the inspiration!

  14. powerful luck as end users

  15. This was so tasty! I served this with fresh artichokes- mmm. Very satisfying..and vegetarian 😉 I will surely make this again and again.

  16. my first time making homemade risotto. I just finished a culinary food tour – back from Italy http://www.edibleauthentictravel.com (check it out) and brought back risotto rice. I made a pork tenderloin with leek and risotto…it was so simple and so yummy. Thank you for your recipe and the idea of using champagne. Loved it…quite the easy labor of love!

  17. This was really yummy! I am still amateur when it comes to cooking, and although it didn’t turn out perfectly for me it’s still delicious!

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