Asparagus Risotto – An Easier Way

Its springtime and asparagus is in full bloom. Risotto is one of my favorite ways to use asparagus, especially when combined with a bit of fresh lemon peel, a dusting of sage or marjoram, and a swirl of zesty grated cheese. Risotto does not require that you stand at the stove while it cooks. There is no constant stirring in my recipe. The result is deliciously creamy with al dente rice — just as you’d expect risotto to be. This minimal stirring method was developed by Rosie and me for a client a few years back. A wine accompaniment? Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc is perfect.

Springtime Asparagus Risotto

Makes 8 cups (4 main-dish or 8 side-dish servings)

1        lb. asparagus spears
2        Tbsp. butter
2        Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1        medium onion, chopped
2        large cloves garlic, minced
2        cups (about 14 oz) Arborio rice
1        cup Holland House* white cooking wine
4        cups (32 oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth, warmed up in microwave
1/3     cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino-Romano cheese
1        Tbsp. grated lemon peel (optional)
1/2     tsp. dried sage, marjoram or tarragon

Wash asparagus and break off the tough ends. Cut spears into 1-inch pieces; set aside.

In a 6-quart pot, melt butter with olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and rice. Over medium-high heat, cook and stir 3-4 minutes; do not brown. Add cooking wine and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. No need to stir.

Add asparagus, increase heat slightly and continue to cook uncovered about 3 minutes. Stir now and then. Taste rice to ensure it does not overcook. Rice should be al dente and rather soupy. Stir in cheese, lemon peel and marjoram. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.

* Risotto made with table wine:
If you prefer to use table wine to make the risotto, use a light pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or Chablis. After cooking and stirring the rice with the butter, olive oil, onion, and garlic, stir in 1 cup wine. Cook until very creamy and almost all the wine is absorbed–about 2 minutes on medium-high heat.
Then stir in the reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. No need to stir. Add asparagus as directed above.

Kitchen Notes:
– The flavors of grated cheeses vary. Start with 1/3 cup, and add more if desired. Serve risotto in 1-cup portions as a side dish or larger portions as a main dish.
– Traditional risotto is very creamy and the rice is firm to the bite. The rice will continue to absorb liquid as it sits.
– Recipe may be halved; use a 4-quart saucepan.

Variations:
– Stir in 1/2 cup diced ham or prosciutto along with the cheese, lemon and dried herb.
-Use 2 cups fresh peas (also in season now) in place of asparagus.


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