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I absolutely love preparing risotto recipes — each one is an elegantly savory meal that’s incredibly versatile, with a beautiful range of fresh ingredients and flavors. This simple, vibratn recipe for risotto verde — or green risotto — combines fresh asparagus and parsley with dry white wine and lemon juice. This makes a special dinner topped with sauteed oyster mushrooms.
Asparagus risotto is what I crave as soon as spring arrives. Mother Nature seems to drop more snow in late winter than any sane person would like, but that’s no reason to believe that the vernal equinox doesn’t in fact occur, right on schedule. And that means asparagus is coming!
All I know is that asparagus risotto helps kickstart the looks and tastes of springtime.
One of my favorite Italian cookbook authors, Marcella Hazan. created a basic vegetable-based risotto recipe that’s a go-to.
But once I’d envisioned a particular very, very vibrant shade of green, I had to stray a bit from her method for making asparagus risotto, which calls for stirring and cooking the risotto with the asparagus for the whole cooking time.
Nothing wrong with that, but by the time the rise is done the asparagus has taken on a dull gray-green color. It’s not exactly the intense, chlorophyll color of my springtime dreams.
Tip: Use a professional chef method to preserve the green color of vegetables: Blanch the asparagus, then puree the stalks immediately with some parsley or spinach. This not only preserves the greenness, but really intensifies the flavor of the finished dish. I add the beautiful, tender tips to the risotto at the end.
Tips for making classic asparagus risotto:
- Use a mild-flavored light broth, (or “brodo” in Italian) as the cooking liquid. It will reduce and become more concentrated as it cooks down and becomes absorbed by the rice. A richer meat or even some vegetable stocks can overwhelm the delicacy of the risotto and become “distracting” to the balance of flavors, according to Marcella.
- The type of rice used to make risotto is important. Special varieties familiar to cooks as Arborio, as well as Carnaroli and Vialone Nano, are all defined by short grains and the amount of starch surrounding the kernels. You can use any kind of rice (or grain, for that matter) in the method of risotto-making, but there’s probably some Italian law ready to decree that what you have is a pot of boiled rice, not the true, creamy amalgamation of rice, broth, butter and Parmigiano known as risotto. Don’t blame me! Italians can get testy on this subject.
- Finally, use the right pot to cook risotto. I almost always use an enameled cast iron casserole. Marcella Hazan advises that lightweight pans “are not suitable” because they will not retain heat at a moderate level. Moderation is key. A heavy 18/10 stainless-steel clad type of pan will work just fine.
Super-Green Asparagus Risotto
- 1 peeled carrot, chopped
- 1 small onion or 1 leek, chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb or 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 small yellow potato, (golf-ball size) peeled and chopped
- 1 pound asparagus, tough bottom stalks trimmed off
- 1 cup parsley leaves or spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped shallot or onion
- ¼ cup cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
- 1 cup Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
- 4 cups homemade broth, (above) or prepared vegetable stock
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Thinly sliced red radish
- Watercress sprigs or parsley sprigs
Make the broth:
- Put all ingredients into a saucepan and cover with 5 cups water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook 30 minutes. Strain the broth into another pan and keep warm.
Make the risotto
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt.
- Slice off the top 3 inches of the asparagus. Slice the remaining stalks into 1-inch lengths. Drop the tops into the boiling water and cook 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl filled with ice water.
- Drop the chopped stalks into the boiling water and cook exactly 3 minutes. Immediately remove the stalks with a slotted spoon and put in a blender along with the parsley or spinach. Add a pinch of salt and ½ cup of the cooking water and puree until very smooth.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar heavy pot over medium-high heat until the butter melts and sizzles (but doesn’t turn brown). Add the shallot and 1 teaspoon salt and cook softened, 1 minute or so. Add the rice and stir to coat with the fat until the rice begins to crackle, 1 minute.
- Pour in the wine, stir it around and boil until it’s evaporated. Pour in 2 cups of the broth and bring to a steady bubble (not a violent boil) and cook until absorbed, stirring frequently for 7-10 minutes.
- Add another cup of broth, another ½ teaspoon salt and continue cooking until almost absorbed. Watch carefully at this point — the rice will be nearly ready when the grains have swelled in volume and the liquid becomes thickened.
- Taste the rice. It should be tender all around, and very slightly al dente at the core. Add more liquid if needed, ¼ cup at a time until you feel it’s done. There should be some thick, starchy liquid still left in the pot. You might not use all the broth.
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in the reserved asparagus puree, remaining tablespoon butter and half the cheese. Stir in the lemon juice and taste the risotto for seasoning, adding more salt to taste if needed. Gently stir in the asparagus tops.
- Serve in bowls, with additional cheese on the side.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- You can skip making the brodo to save time. Instead, use 2-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth diluted with 2-1/2 cups water