Springtime in Umbria is wild asparagus time, and you can see the older women from the small town up the street from our farmhouse foraging in the fields and alongside the roads from late April until early June. Wild asparagus is thinner than regular asparagus, but has a more pronounced “asparagus” flavor. Here in Umbria it is most often used in risotto or fresh pasta dishes, although it can be used in just about any dish that regular asparagus might be used.
For this recipe, I blanched the entire asparagus spear, reserved the tips, and pureed the rest along with some butter and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. This green asparagus puree is then stirred into the risotto just when it has completed cooking to maintain the full flavor.
I also added some fresh parsley leaves chopped together with lemon rind which I used to give the dish some vibrancy. The reserved tips are then used to garnish the completed bowls of risotto.
If you’ve never made risotto before, please check out my primer The Realities of Risotto Of course if you are not fortunate enough to come across wild asparagus, the regular variety will also work fine in this recipe, which is what I use when wild asparagus is no longer available.
Just try and choose thinner, very fresh asparagus spears, and if using regular asparagus, you may want to slice the tips in half lengthwise before garnishing your bowls of risotto.
- 1 Bunch of Asparagus
- 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter at Room Temperature
- 1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (or Parmesan)
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 Cup Olive OIl1 Small Onion, Peeled & Finely Diced
- 1 1/3 Cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
- 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
- 6 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth, Homemade Preferred
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper to Taste
- Additional Grated Pecorino (or Parmesan Cheese)
- Trim the bottom of the asparagus spears, discarding the woody bottoms.
- Cut the tips in 2-inch pieces and set aside.
- Cut the rest of the spears in 1-inch pieces, and blanch in a pot of boiling water until tender.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus pieces and place in a food processor.
- Blanch the asparagus tips in the same water until tender crisp.
- Drain, and run under cool water, then set aside.
- Add the butter and cheese to the food processor, pulse until you have a smooth mixture, then set aside until needed.
- On a cutting board, chop the parsley and lemon zest together until finely chopped, then set aside.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the oil until lightly smoking over medium heat.
- Cook the onion until translucent, stirring often, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the rice, and stir to coat well with the onions and oil.
- Cook the rice, stirring continuously for 2 to 3 minutes
- Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
- Add the wine to the rice and stirring often, cook until it has been completely absorbed.
- Begin to add a ladleful of broth at a time, stirring the rice until it has been absorbed before adding another.
- Continue to cook the rice in this manner until it is "al dente", or just with a little bite, about 25 minutes total cooking time for the rice.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the asparagus puree, and stir firmly until it has completely blended into the rice.
- Add half the parsley and lemon mixture and stir this into the rice as well.
- Serve the risotto in four individual bowls, then garnish with the reserved asparagus tips and remainder of the parsley and lemon mixture.
- Offer additional grated cheese at the table.