The Ultimate End-of-Summer Comfort Food: Sweet & Creamy Corn Risotto
Most risotto recipes are cozy & comforting meals I crave when the weather starts to get chilly. My 2 go-tos – namely, our Pumpkin Risotto & Creamy Porcini Mushroom Risotto – are total cold weather comfort foods. But late last summer I began to wonder why we limit our risotto-loving hearts to winter & fall? Comfort food isn’t just for cold weather! ☺️
I began tinkering with the idea of risotto with corn about a year ago, thinking it would be the perfect bridge between summer & autumn – super fresh & seasonal, but also super satisfying & cozy at the same time. It’s exactly the type of dish my body craves this time of year when summer produce is still abundant but my brain begins to transition into fall mode.
For maximum sweet corn flavor (& minimal waste!), this sweet corn risotto recipe uses the entire cob of corn. The spent cobs infuse a veggie stock for the arborio rice, while the fresh kernels are folded into the risotto as it simmers with bell peppers, onion, & garlic. A crispy pancetta topping is the perfect finishing touch – its savory punch of flavor brings everything together. The perfect way to kick off risotto season a few months early!
Sweet Corn Risotto Recipe Highlights
You’ll love this recipe for corn risotto because it’s…
- A SEASONAL SHOWCASE. Making risotto with corn celebrates one of summer’s best ingredients! Corn-infused stock & tender corn kernels make every bite burst with seasonal flavor.
- CREAMY DREAMY. Starchy arborio rice turns nice & creamy as it simmers to al dente in the corn-infused vegetable stock, while a bit of butter & parmesan cheese takes the creaminess over the top!
- END OF SUMMER COMFORT. Sweet corn risotto is the perfect marriage between fresh summer flavors & cozy fall cravings. An epic recipe for transitioning between the seasons.
Creamy, cozy, summertime comfort food! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Sweet Corn Risotto with Crispy Pancetta, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
First, Some Risotto 101
If making risotto is new to you, don’t sweat it! It’s the type of fancy-feeling dish that’s much easier to make than it seems. Before we get cooking, let’s cover a few risotto basics…
What is risotto? ⇢ Originating in Northern Italy, risotto is a creamy, savory rice dish. A basic risotto is always made by cooking starchy rice in broth, typically with butter, onion, & wine. Since it’s naturally pretty mild, risotto is a great vehicle for bold flavors like spices (saffron is a traditional risotto ingredient), seafood, or sweet veggies (like this corn risotto recipe!).
Is risotto a rice? ⇢ Not quite! Risotto is a dish, but it’s one that’s traditionally made with starchy rice. I use arborio rice in this sweet corn risotto recipe, but carnaroli is also a commonly used variety – feel free to use whichever is most accessible to you!
How to make risotto creamy? ⇢ Real-deal risotto gets its creaminess from the rice itself, not a separate sauce or dairy product. The starches in the rice fortify the cooking stock as it simmers, thickening the risotto into a creamy texture. Butter & cheese are also often mixed into risotto, but they’re used more-so as flavor-boosters & not texture-builders.
Is risotto gluten-free? ⇢ Yes! Rice is a naturally 100% gluten-free grain. If you need to make sure your risotto is gluten-free, be sure to check the labels of the broth & other packaged ingredients you use for any trace amounts of wheat.
Is risotto dairy-free? ⇢ It depends. Risotto is traditionally made with a little butter & cheese for flavor. This particular sweet corn risotto recipe follows suit, but it’s very easily adapted for dairy-free dietary preferences – check the Recipe Notes, below!
Key Ingredients for Sweet Corn Risotto
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Like most classic Italian dishes, risotto is made with pretty simple ingredients, but when you combine them with a little TLC, the result is total magic! To make this risotto with corn you need…
- Arborio rice – This starchy short-grain rice is the variety commonly used to make risotto. Learn more below!
- Sweet corn – The superstar seasonal ingredient of this corn risotto recipe! We’re not letting any part of the corn go to waste – the spent cob infuses the cooking stock with subtle corn flavor while the sweet kernels are folded into the creamy rice for the best pop of texture.
- Vegetable broth – Using a high-quality, flavorful broth is really important when making risotto. I always keep Simply Nature Organic Vegetable Broth from ALDI stocked in my pantry.
- Aromatics – Diced bell peppers, onion, & garlic layer the corn risotto with a subtle but powerful aromatic flavor.
- Flavor boosters – A dry white wine, freshly grated parmesan, & unsalted butter are all risotto must-haves! I also use a bay leaf & parmesan rind to infuse the vegetable broth as it simmers.
- Pancetta – This cured, unsmoked Italian-style bacon is available pre-diced near the deli meats at most conventional grocery stores. I love how its salty & rich flavor pairs perfectly with sweet corn risotto, but feel free to skip it if you’d like a completely meat-free dish.
Rice is the star of any traditional risotto dish. Its starches fortify the cooking stock as it simmers, creating risotto’s signature creamy-dreamy texture. Good risotto rice is short- to medium-grain rice with high starch content. Arborio rice totally fits the bill!
Arborio is the most popular short-grain rice used for risotto because it easily absorbs large amounts of liquid for a creamy texture. As you cook & stir the arborio rice, it slowly releases its starches & simmers to al dente (i.e. tender with a bit of a bite).
Arborio rice is widely available these days; look for it in the rice & grains aisle of a conventional grocery store. Lundberg Farms is my go-to brand. If you can’t find arborio rice, carnaroli rice is another common variety used to make risotto. Feel free to give it a try too!
How to Make the Creamiest Sweet Corn Risotto
Don’t let risotto’s fussy reputation intimidate you. While making risotto requires a little patience & attentiveness, it’s honestly pretty simple. This simple sweet corn risotto recipe cooks up in about 45 minutes & the process is kind of meditative!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Prepare a corn stock. Spent corn cobs are full of sweet corn flavor, so don’t let them go to waste! Start by simmering vegetable broth with corn cobs, a bay leaf, & a parmesan rind if you happen to have one on hand. Why? ⇢ The corn cobs & aromatics seep into the broth & ultimately infuse the rice with even more sweet corn flavor as the risotto cooks.
Cook the aromatics. Melt some butter in a heavy-bottomed pot & start cooking the onions & garlic for a few minutes, until fragrant. Why? ⇢ Aside from the corn stock, these aromatics provide the base of flavor for the sweet corn risotto.
Toast the arborio rice. Add the arborio rice to the pot with the softened aromatics, stirring so it comes in contact with the hot surface to gently toast. Why? ⇢ Toasting the arborio rice adds a rich nuttiness to the sweet corn risotto. This simple step takes just a few minutes & makes a big difference in the flavor of the risotto!
Deglaze & simmer the sweet corn risotto. Deglaze the pot with white wine, then fold sweet corn kernels & diced bell pepper into the risotto. Working one ladle at a time, add corn stock to the pot. Stir frequently with each addition & cook until the rice absorbs all the liquid before adding more. Why? ⇢ Adding just a little stock at a time keeps the individual grains of rice in close contact as they cook, while frequent stirring agitates the natural starches on the surface of the rice, releasing them slowly to develop the signature creamy consistency of risotto. This is a slow-but-steady process that takes 15-20 minutes to ensure the rice is cooked through with a nice al dente bite. Be patient, have fun with it, & be sure to taste for doneness as you go!
Risotto Meal Prep Tips!
Prepping risotto requires a bit of attention & it’s a pretty active process, but you can save some time & energy at dinnertime by dicing the onion & bell pepper & slicing the sweet corn kernels off of the cob in advance. With the prep work out of the way, you can power through cooking at dinnertime! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more meal prep guidance.
Vegetarian & Vegan Risotto
You can easily make this sweet corn risotto recipe vegetarian or vegan – simply omit the pancetta & substitute the butter & parmesan cheese:
- For vegetarian sweet corn risotto, use your favorite rennet-free parmesan.
- For vegan sweet corn risotto, be sure to swap the butter with a nice olive oil or your favorite plant-based butter & swap the parmesan with your favorite dairy-free substitute.
Tip! ⇢ Be sure to taste & season with extra spices or herbs if the risotto lacks in flavor without the nutty parmesan. Try adding a little freshly grated nutmeg for warmth & an extra pinch of salt to ensure all of the flavors pop!
The Finishing Touch: Pancetta Sweet Corn (+ Other Easy Sweet Corn Risotto Topping Ideas!)
Since the sweet corn risotto takes 15-20 minutes to simmer, you can multi-task to prepare a topping you love as it cooks.
My favorite: Sweet Corn & Pancetta Topping. ⇢ Simply render pancetta in a pan with a little butter, garlic, & some extra sweet corn kernels. This only takes a few minutes & is the perfect salty & crispy pairing for the creamy & sweet risotto.
Other easy risotto toppers: Feel free to top your sweet corn risotto with a simple protein that you love, too. A few ideas to get you started…
- Sweet corn risotto with shrimp – Kind of a classic pairing! For next-level flavor, cook the shrimp in browned butter with a little garlic – check the Recipe Notes, below, for a full how-to.
- Sweet corn risotto with scallops – Seared scallops are another great add-on; their subtle sweetness is a natural pairing for summer corn. Check out our guide on How to Sear Scallops for a full breakdown of everything you need to know to make pan-seared scallops in 10 minutes or less.
- Parmesan crusted chicken – A slightly more hands-on option, but always a hit; its nutty parmesan flavor is a beautiful complement to the sweet corn risotto. Prep the parmesan crusted chicken, then slice & serve right over the risotto.
Serving a Fancy-Feeling Corn Risotto Summer Dinner
This corn risotto recipe is a meal all on its own! Even without an added protein, it’s hearty, creamy, & super comforting. Serve sweet corn risotto as easy end-of-summer entertaining with family, at girl’s night, or as a fancy-feeling date night at home.
A couple of corn risotto serving ideas to round out your dinner menu…
- Add a big green salad to balance the richness of risotto with a bit of freshness. Toss fresh greens in our zingy All-Purpose Vinaigrette with other summer veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, or red onion.
- Serve with crusty bread for the ultimate comfort food. Use the crusty bread to soak up any leftover sweet & creamy risotto from your plate – heavenly!
How to Reheat Risotto?
Enjoy any leftover sweet corn risotto by reheating it on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you have some on hand, add in a splash of vegetable stock to loosen things up & bring the corn risotto back to life! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full storage & reheating guidance.
I can’t wait for you to try this Sweet Corn Risotto with Crispy Pancetta! It’s my ideal end-of-summer dinner – seasonal & fresh + satisfying & comforting all at once. I think you’re going to love it!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
Not ready to say goodbye to summer?
End-of-Summer Dinner Recipes
Sweet corn risotto is end-of-summer comfort food – after all, risotto isn’t just for cold weather! The idea of this recipe actually came to me last year, in the height of sweet corn season, but it was a little too late in the summer to pull together a recipe to share here on PWWB. This year it is!
The special thing about this recipe is that it makes use of the whole cob to ensure seasonal corn flavor really comes through. Fresh kernels are folded into the risotto itself, while the spent cobs are infused in the veggie stock that simmers it all to al dente. The risotto bursts with fresh flavor & the sweet corn kernels add the best pop of texture to an otherwise creamy & tender dish.
Feel free to serve as-is, or multi-task as the risotto simmers to prep a topping. I love quickly sautéing some extra sweet corn kernels with pancetta, but proteins like brown butter shrimp or seared scallops are also fabulous pairings. On a related note, the risotto is naturally meatless, but you can easily make it vegetarian or vegan as needed – refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
If you’ve never made risotto before, there’s really no need to be intimidated by its fussy reputation. It’s a simple process that requires a little time & patience, but the result is so worth it! Be sure to refer to the blog post, above, for a more detailed how-to!
- 7 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 1 dried bay leaf
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 3 ears sweet corn, kernels sliced off of cob & divided
- 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated & divided
- 1 1/4 cups arborio rice (see Recipe Notes)
- 1/2 cup dry, unoaked white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 1 orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup grated parmesan (approx. 2 ounces)
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prepare the corn stock: Add the vegetable broth, spent corn cobs, bay leaf, & parmesan rind (if using) to a large pot over high heat. Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low or medium-low to maintain a light simmer.
- Cook the aromatics: Meanwhile, as the corn stock comes to a simmer, begin cooking the risotto. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter to a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add in the onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & cook, stirring occasionally, until softened & translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in 2 cloves of the garlic. Stir to combine & cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes longer.
- Toast the arborio rice: Stir in the arborio rice. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted.
- Deglaze & simmer the sweet corn risotto: Deglaze the pot by pouring the wine into the Dutch oven & using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom. Cook, stirring constantly until all of the wine evaporates. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add kernels from 2 ears of sweet corn & the bell pepper to the pot & stir to combine. Working 1 cup or ladleful at a time, add the warm corn stock into the risotto, stirring frequently until the arborio rice absorbs all of the corn stock. Continue adding stock 1 cup or ladleful at a time & stirring frequently between additions. Start tasting for doneness after 15 minutes. The risotto is ready when the arborio rice is creamy & cooked through with a nice bite (i.e. al dente). This step will likely take 20-25 minutes total, & you may not need to use all of the broth.
- Prep the pancetta sweet corn topping: Meanwhile, as the sweet corn risotto simmers, prepare a quick pancetta sweet corn topping. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the reserved butter in a small skillet. Once melted, add the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to render. Add the remaining sweet corn kernels & garlic to the skillet, stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet corn is cooked & the pancetta is crispy, 3-4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat & set aside for serving.
- Finish the sweet corn risotto: Once the arborio rice is perfectly al dente, finish the risotto. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter & the grated parmesan. Taste & season with additional kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired.
- Serve the sweet corn risotto immediately, topped with pancetta sweet corn mixture fresh herbs, extra parmesan, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper, as desired. Enjoy!
- Simple add-on ⇢ Brown Butter Shrimp: For a little extra protein, top your sweet corn risotto with these deliciously simple brown butter shrimp. Brown 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once browned reduce heat to medium-low. Add 2 finely chopped or grated cloves of garlic & cook until fragrant. Add 1 pound peeled & deveined shrimp to the skillet, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook 1-2 minutes per side, just until shrimp is opaque & cooked through. Serve immediately.
- Ingredient Notes:
- Arborio rice is a high-starch, short-grain Italian rice typically used in risotto. Arborio rice is very readily available in the rice & grains aisle in most grocery stores. I really like Lundberg Farms. Carnaroli rice is another common variety of rice used in risotto. Use whichever you love most or is most readily available to you.
- Vegetarian &/or vegan sweet corn risotto: For a vegetarian sweet corn risotto, skip the pancetta & omit the parmesan or use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make this recipe dairy-free &/or vegan, be sure to also swap olive oil or your favorite plant butter for the butter. If you choose to omit parmesan altogether, be sure to taste & add some extra salt to account for the saltiness that parmesan adds. Feel free to jazz it up, as desired, with some extra spices or herbs like thyme or crispy fried sage.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover sweet corn risotto will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through as desired – you may want to add another splash of vegetable stock or water to help loosen things up a little!
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: While there’s lots of stove time involved in making any risotto recipe, you can eliminate all of the active prep needed for this sweet corn risotto by chopping up the veggies in advance. At dinnertime, all you have to do is get cooking – easy!
- Dice 1 sweet onion, dice 1 orange bell pepper, & slice the kernels off the cobs of 3 ears of sweet corn. Store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: summer risotto recipe, sweet corn risotto recipe, homemade corn risotto, sweet corn recipes
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.