5 minute read

Pine nuts and Cointreau risotto with roasted pork tenderloin

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First of all, let me confess something: I’m not Italian, and I didn’t get this from an Italian person. I got this recipe from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend, etc…

The origins of the recipes are lost, but some say a renegade monk smuggled it out of Italy by in the early 19th century. The story says he traveled across the Alps and into France, where he passed the recipe along… but who knows the truth?

There’s something interesting about this recipe: each successive ‘owner’ added a bit of something to it, refining it over time. You can enjoy any time of the year, and despite the quantity of rice, it never feels ‘heavy’.

This is one of the most balanced recipes I make. In terms of texture, it brings together the creaminess of the rice, the crunch of the pine nuts. In terms of taste, the delicate bitterness of the orange and Cointreau is a wonderful counterpart to the soy sauce. The orange also echoes between the pork and the risotto, create a truly well-rounded dish.

The level of skill needed to execute this recipe is reasonable, but it does require a high level of patience. You’re going to be stirring without interruption for at least half an hour, and it gets harder and harder as the rice absorbs more liquid. Some risotto recipes tell you to make risotto in the oven, but I think that the result is well worth putting in the time and effort of stirring it on the stove!

If you skipped the gym this week, this will double as a workout.

This recipe has a few more added benefits: it’s pretty easy to increase quantities to serve 8 or 12 people. On the other hand, I don’t recommend trying to make it for 2, as it will make it harder to get the rice to cook correctly. This reheats pretty well, so don’t hesitate to make more and have leftovers!

Pro-tip before you get started: put the white wine in the fridge, and use some of it to stay hydrated.

Ingredients for a delicious meal for 4

For the pork

  • 1 pork tenderloin (500g, more if you’re hungry)
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium is best)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole with skin

For the risotto

  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 onions, chopped small
  • 260-280g dry Arborio rice (if you make more, adjust quantity of bouillon)
  • 1.2l chicken broth
  • 10cl dry white wine + 1-2 glasses
  • 2 tbsp cointreau
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts2
  • 1 bag (~200g) of baby spinach
  • grated parmesan cheese to taste


To prepare the risotto

In a large mixing bowl, mix chicken broth, white wine, and Cointreau; this is your risotto bouillon.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until translucent, stirring often (they should not brown). Add chopped garlic and rice, stirring until the rice gets a bit translucent from the oil.

At this point, make sure you have a glass of wine handy because you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while. This is probably the most crucial part of the recipe.

Add one or two ladlefuls of bouillon, stirring continuously, until almost all the liquid is absorbed.

Repeat this last step until the rice mixture gets very creamy. This takes a long time (maybe 30-40 minutes) and almost all of the bouillon is going to be used.

As time passes, the rice is going to take more and more time to absorb the additional liquid. This is going to be an indicator of whether or not your rice is cooked, but there’s only one way to know for sure. Taste it.

Once cooked to your taste, add pine nuts, parmesan, spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted.

To prepare the pork tenderloin

Preheat a cast-iron pot (with a lid) on medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil.

Once hot, add the pork tenderloin and brown on all sides. Doing so not only adds flavor but creates a sort of seal around the meat that will help keep the moisture in.

Reduce heat to low/medium-low, add orange zest, whole garlic cloves, and soy sauce. Cover the pot, and cook for ~30 hour, turning the meat from time to time.

Once the meat is cooked, remove it (and the garlic) to a cutting board.

Now, for the secret sauce: turn the heat all the way to high. Once the pot is very hot, deglaze with 1 ladle of the risotto bouillon, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to get all the flavors out. The result is a deep dark sauce that is simply delicious on top of the risotto.

Ingredients Ingredients

To serve

Slice up the tenderloin (I like to make slices on the chunky side, around 2-3cm). Serve a quarter of the risotto in each plate, top with tenderloin slices and the roasted whole garlic cloves.

Drizzle some of the sauce on top of it, and enjoy with either a dry white wine (why not something from the Mâconnais) or a light red wine (Côte du Rhones, St Joseph is my péché-mignon).

Now that you know how to make this recipe as I do it, it’s your turn to try to enhance it further. The risotto itself is great to use as a base if you want to try something new! If you make something amazing out of it, let me know in the comments!


1 - If you want your risotto and the pork to be ready at the same time, and you only have two arms, you’re going to need an assistant to stir the risotto while you prep the pork. Bribe them with a glass of wine.

2 - If you can’t find toasted pine nuts, get the regular kind and dry-toast them in a hot pan for a few minutes.

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