Asparagus was cultivated by the Romans as early as 2500 years ago. This vegetable is nowadays still a key element in the Italian kitchen for its versatility, flavour and healthy properties.
Fresh asparagus is available in Italy from March to June, and is a symbol of the arrival of spring like no other vegetable.
We all love the spring feeling and the new energy asparagus gives us, so let’s celebrate this season with what we consider one of the best asparagus-based Italian dishes: the “Risotto with asparagus”
INGREDIENTS for 4 servings
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
300g ARBORIO rice
250ml dry white wine
2 bunches asparagus (~600gr)
50 g butter
1 small handful Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, freshly grated
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 celery sticks
Finely chop the asparagus tips into tiny discs, keeping the stalks whole (i.e. the last 4-5 cm, the hard part). Pour 2 liters of water in a saucepan then add the celery, the asparagus stalks, half of onion, the salt and bring the broth to a simmer.
Put the olive oil in a separate large pan, add the onion, thinly chopped, the asparagus’s tips and cook very gently for about 10 minutes, without colouring, until soft. Take half of them and keep aside.
Then, pour the rice in the large pan with asparagus’s tips and cook until it starts crispy; don’t let the rice or the vegetables catch on the bottom of the pan, so keep it moving.
Quickly pour in the wine; you will smell the alcohol immediately, so keep stirring all the time until it has evaporated, leaving the rice with a lovely perfume.
Turn the heat down and add a ladleful of broth, the rice shouldn’t cook too quickly, otherwise the outside of each grain will be stodgy and the inside hard and nutty. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the broth has been absorbed. In the meantime whisk quickly with a blender the asparagus you kept aside. Add the rest of the broth, a ladleful at a time, until the rice and asparagus are cooked. You might not need all the broth. Be careful not to overcook the rice. It should hold its shape but be soft and creamy. Turn off the heat, add the butter, the Parmesan and the blended asparagus, gently mix well. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute. Serve with Parmesan.
Tips: with leftover risotto you can make small rice balls.