by Anna Lucca
Hi everyone! Summer is finally here- and what better way to usher in this beautiful season than to bring one of its most iconic vegetables to your table? That’s right, today we will be cooking with the delicate and refined asparagus!
This recipe is a great culinary classic that everyone can enjoy, right down to the vegetable broth. First, a bit on how to choose the right asparagus for you: look for stalks that aren’t too big. The usual green ones are fine, but you can also try the violet variant if you want a twist with great results.
With that out of the way, here are the ingredients (serves four, with some to spare):
For the vegetable broth:
• Two tomatoes
• Two carrots
• One bunch of celery
• One onion
• A bouquet of aromatic herbs (any two of bay leaves, parsley, thyme or marjoram)
• Salt to taste
• Plenty of water
For the risotto:
• 360 g of Carnaroli quality rice
• 500 g of asparagus (unwashed)
• One medium onion
• 70 g of Parmigiano Reggiano
• 80 g of butter
Let’s begin with the preparation of the broth, which is essential for the success of the dish.
Clean the vegetables, cross-cut the tomatoes (without peeling them!), and roughly chop the celery and carrots into large pieces; then cut the onion into four wedges and tie off the bouquet of aromatics with food-safe kitchen string. Put everything in a large saucepan with plenty of cold water, salt, and bring to a boil for thirty to forty minutes. It should be hot by the time you start preparing the risotto.
Leave the broth on the back burner (figuratively and literally) for a moment, and proceed to the preparation of the risotto itself.
First, wash the asparagus, clean the stalks, and cut them diagonally across the grain into pieces no longer than a centimeter. Separate the tips, cut them in half lengthwise, and set them aside. Small tip: if the asparagus are a bit underripe (which can easily be determined by less fragrance than usual), peel them slightly along the length with a potato peeler to keep them from becoming overly fibrous. Make sure not to discard the tips; they are very tasty, but much more tender than the stalks and should be added last.
Wash the onion and chop it finely. In a large saucepan that is suitable for creaming (I use a very heavy one with a very thick bottom) simmer the butter over a low heat and add the onion. When it has warmed up, add the asparagus stalks and stir for a few minutes to warm them well.
Now comes the moment of truth: the whipping of the rice. Turn up the heat stir steadily with a wooden spoon. Watch the rice carefully: when it has absorbed all the butter and has finished toasting, it will turn translucent; only then can you add the first ladle of hot broth. Let the broth evaporate before adding more, until it covers the rice by about an inch.
Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 18 minutes. Stir and taste frequently, adding the hot broth a little at a time, then when it’s almost done cooking, salt the risotto to your taste, but be careful not to overdo it! Otherwise, you risk overpowering the delicate and flavorful parmesan. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the asparagus tips you set aside.
Take care not to overcook the rice – the dish is best enjoyed al dente. When finished cooking, turn off the heat, sprinkle with the Parmeggiano Reggiano and add a tab of butter. Let the completed risotto sit covered for 5 minutes, then when it has set, stir vigorously and serve.
I hope you enjoy making this recipe as much as I enjoyed sharing it, and look forward to the next!
Photo by: Anna Lucca