Spring is one of my favorite seasons in Italy, as we have an abundance of vibrant fresh vegetables available. The market stalls are overflowing with tender fava beans, a variety of different artichokes, baby peas, and crisp asparagus spears. Unfortunately, due to the Pandemic, we are living through, we were unable to travel to Italy this spring.
Here in Michigan, we can buy asparagus. Still, spring peas, fresh artichokes, and fava beans are all but impossible to find. We do eat a lot of asparagus in our home, especially in the spring, when it is very inexpensive and so tender, you can actually eat it raw.
Risotto is one dish that I genuinely enjoy when it is properly prepared, but unfortunately, it is rare to find a decent risotto dish at any local Italian restaurants around me. Over the years, I have made risotto using many different types of preparations, but the traditional method remains my favorite.
There is just something comforting about slowly adding the liquid and stirring while watching the risotto kernels begin to swell and become tender. Risotto is finished when the grains are just tender to the bite but still retain their shape. Mushy risotto is just not appealing to me! A finished risotto dish should also look a little soupy as the risotto will absorb the liquid as it cools and become a creamy dish.
This risotto is flavored with fresh asparagus and lemon, giving it a bright, vibrant flavor. For this dish, I like to make a puree or pesto with some blanched asparagus that I stir into the rice dish during the last few minutes. This helps keep the asparagus flavor fresh tasting and gives the dish a pretty green color. Garnish the finished dish with a few blanched asparagus tops and some fresh lemon threads.
- 1 Pound Of Fresh Asparagus, Ends Trimmed
- 4 Tablespoons Butter, Divided
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- 2 Teaspoons Finely Grated Lemon Zest, Divided
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, Divided
- 1/2 Cup Baby Spinach Leaves
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped White Onion
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
- 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
- 4-5 Cups Low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
- 2 Tablespoon Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, Divided
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Reserved Asparagus Tops
- Lemon Threads
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Cut 2-inches off top of each asparagus spear.
- Chop the remainder of the asparagus coarsely.
- Blanch all of the asparagus in boiling water until tender crisp.
- Drop the asparagus into a bowl of ice water.
- Reserve the asparagus tops and set aside.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the chopped asparagus from the water and place in a blender.
- Add the spinach, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and half the lemon juice, and puree until smooth.
- Add half the grated cheese and pulse until blended then set aside the pesto until needed.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook until they are translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes
- Add the rice and stir until it is well coated with the butter and oil and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine, and stir continually over medium heat until it is absorbed.
- Start to add 1/2 cup of hot broth, stirring as it is absorbed.
- Continue in this manner, adding ladles full of hot broth, and stirring continuously for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the asparagus pesto, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the remaining lemon juice, and grated lemon zest, and continue to cook, adding the broth, until the risotto is cooked, but remains slightly firm to the bite, about another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter, and remaining grated cheese.
- Serve in individual bowls, garnished with additional asparagus spears, basil leaves, and lemon threads.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 763Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 213mgSodium: 3680mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 7gSugar: 19gProtein: 98g