Cooking and Spirituality: Risotto with Zucchini

By Lucia Ferrara

In today’s video in the Cooking and Spirituality Series, I show you how to prepare Risotto with Zucchini. Risotto is made from arborio, an Italian short-grain rice, and can be cooked with many different ingredients. I mention in the video that when I was growing up, my mother oftentimes would make risotto with leftover tomato sauce. Whatever kind of risotto it was, it was always a family favorite.

Coming from an Italian and Croatian culture, I learned importance of making people feel at home and sharing God’s love with one another through food.  I remember times when people showed up at our door unexpectedly. My mother would cook something up within no time, and it would be a spectacular homemade Italian meal.  She never complained; it was a part of her existence to nurture that expression of hospitality and Catholic faith.

Growing up in this environment taught me about my own roots and made me aware of how important it is to connect with people.

My mother’s motto was “no one ever leaves her house hungry!” On the other hand, my father’s motto was “no one ever left thirsty!” When grapes were season, we would go down to the city market to buy cases of red and white grapes with my father. We would have to carry all those wooden cases to the basement where my dad made his own wine and vinegar. It was a tremendous undertaking that required the full participation of the whole family.

After bottling the wine, he would place bottles aside to give friends and guests, and anytime someone came over, he would offer them his homemade wine and grappa! This was his expression of hospitality.  If you were lucky, he would send you home with a small bottle to enjoy.  Although my father was a harsh, cantankerous man, he found an expression of his spiritualty in the sharing of winemaking with others. This was his way of connecting his spirit with others.

The articles and videos in the Cooking and Spirituality Series can be found here.

In my culture, hospitality is a not only an obligation to all those who enter, it is a practice, skill and a gift.

The bible shows us many accounts of hospitality.  Jesus surrounded himself by all kinds of people from all walks of life — prostitutes, killers, adulterers and all kinds of other sinners. He accepted everyone at the table.  One distinctive account is in the Gospel of Matthew 11:18-19, where Jesus surrounds himself with “notorious sinners.”  Just like my family, Jesus ate with no strangers. He made everyone feel welcome and at home.  His table always included food and wine.  Jesus ministered at the table with his disciples, and he always had room at the table.

The art and spirituality of hospitality seem lost in today’s world, just as it is so needed. We need to make breaking bread together a priority.  We sustain our bodies and souls with the spirit of food and fellowship. This is what gives up energy to seek the beauty in all of God’s creations.

[Lucia Ferrara, the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions at]

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The ingredients for Risotto with Zucchini:

Risotto with Zucchini

  • 3 cups arborio (Italian short-grain rice)
  • 2-3 cups zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Sprig fresh basil
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups white wine (dry or semi-dry)
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish

Garden Salad

  • Leaf lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Dressing: olive oil, red balsamic vinegar,
    salt and pepper.


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