Vegetables | Whole Grains

Asparagus Risotto Verde

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A fresh, vibrant green asparagus risotto to celebrate the best of spring vegetables.

A white serving bowl containing bright green risotto with asparagus spears, baby spinach and fennel fronds on top.

Green. green asparagus risotto is what I crave soon after spring’s arrival in March.

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!

Once the snow has melted a pair of busy cardinals usually appear right outside my window, getting their nest ready for…perhaps new carpeting?

All I know is that it’s time to go back to eating food that looks and tastes of springtime, not the dark colors of a cold winter.

I’ve been getting happily reacquainted with one of my favorite cookbook authors, Marcella Hazan.

blanched asparagus

Her basic risotto recipe is a standard in my cooking, but once I’d envisioned a particular very, very verde 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.

I employed a color-saving culinary trick instead — blanch the asparagus, then puree the stalks immediately with a bit of 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.

A white serving bowl containing bright green risotto with asparagus spears, baby spinach and fennel fronds on top.

Marcella Hazon-approved tips for making classic asparagus risotto:

  • Use a mild-flavored brodo, or light broth, as the cooking liquid; it will reduce and become more concentrated as it cooks down and becomes absorbed by the rice. A rich meat or even vegetable stock will overwhelm the delicacy of the risotto and become “distracting” to the balance of flavors.
  • 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 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.

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Asparagus Risotto Verde

Familystyle Food
A vibrant, healthy and delicious asparagus risotto full of fresh spring color and flavor.
Print Pin
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Whole Grains
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

Brodo:
  • 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
  • 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, 1 1/2-inch diameter waxy potato, peeled and chopped
Risotto:
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough bottom stalks trimmed off
  • 1 cup parsley leaves or spinach leaves
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallot or onion
  • ¼ cup cup pinot grigio, or other dry white wine
  • 1 cup Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
  • 4 cups brodo or diluted broth, as noted above
  • cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Garnish ideas:
  • Thinly sliced red radish
  • Watercress sprigs
  • Fennel fronds

Instructions 

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 first 3 inches of the asparagus tops. Slice the remaining stalks into 1-inch lengths. Drop the tips 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, topping with some radish, watercress and fennel fronds with additional cheese on the side.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 375kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 974mg | Potassium: 945mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 5710IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 7mg
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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food!

14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was a wonderfully fresh and vibrant risotto recipe. I used asparagus grown in my backyard and everyone loved it. Thanks for a great use for some of my asparagus!

  2. I made this with minor changes and it was excellent. Great color and texture. The final product was nice and creamy and ‘flowed’ well. I did not garnish with radish, watercress or fennel and used boxed veg stock instead of the homemade brodo. Next time I’ll try the brodo. Great recipe.

    1. Hi Doug – I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the risotto! Yes, try the homemade broth. It doesn’t take that much hands-on time to make, and it freezes well so make a bigger batch! Boxed stocks can be unpredictable – often overly salty, sweet or too strong in flavor.

  3. My friend and I just made this risotto for dinner and basically finished it all off. We used water instead of broth (frugal college students), and used farro instead of arborio rice. We also added fresh mint to the puree and now we can’t stop thinking about all the things we could possibly use asparagus puree for (besides the obvious – eating it with a spoon. guilty). So genius and delicious. This was like the epitome of spring, in a bowl. I highly recommend adding mint. Can’t wait to make this again!

    1. Grace, I am so pleased to hear how you adapted the risotto – farro makes a great replacement for the starchy rice. I love the idea of mint in the puree! Even more spring freshness and greenery.

  4. My friend and I just made this risotto for dinner and basically finished it all off. We used water instead of broth (frugal college students), and used farro instead of arborio rice. We also added fresh mint to the puree and now we can’t stop thinking about all the things we could possibly use asparagus puree for (besides the obvious – eating it with a spoon. guilty). So genius and delicious. This was like the epitome of spring, in a bowl. I highly recommend adding mint. Can’t wait to make this again!

  5. I love this technique! It makes the end color so vibrant and amazing. I can’t wait for all the great green spring things to start growing around here.

    1. Katie, it’s coming your way! Our snow is still melting, but daffodils are blooming underneath the drifts.
      This is great technique to use with other green vegetables, too.

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