Creamy Asparagus Risotto: quick to make, really satisfying and actually healthy, when not drenched in butter and cheese.
Unfortunately there is a drawback to risottos: basically, you’re not allowed to get it right unless you have an Italian grandma, and this is why I expect someone commenting that this version is an insult to all Italians every couple of hours.
But I’m prepared. I did my tests and the necessary research to make this asparagus risotto not only tasty, but also to stand up to the criticism of Italian know-it-alls.
How to make the perfect (asparagus) risotto
Alright, here are the key questions that apparently make or break a risotto.
To fry or not to fry the rice?
In many recipes it is emphasized that the risotto rice should be fried for about two minutes. Kenji Lopez from The Food Lab made the test.
His findings: the longer you fry the rice the nuttier its taste gets. But also: the longer you fry it the more the rice loses its creaminess.
So we have a trade-off here: nutty flavour vs creamy texture. I’d say it’s on you to whichever you like better. Treat yourself 😉
To ladle or not to ladle the broth one bit at a time?
Many Italians will recall that their grandmothers used to add broth to the rice one ladle at a time, waiting until it was absorbed before adding the next ladle.
Apparently there is a theory behind it: Danielle Walsh from bon appetit believes by slowly adding broth, you allow the rice to bump up against each other, which creates that creaminess.
On the other hand, in his test Kenji Lopez didn’t notice a difference when all the broth was dumped in right away.
The only drawback: you might add too much broth and make the risotto mushy. Personally, for laziness reasons I’m on Lopez’ side.
Top: needs more broth; bottom: ahh, that looks much better!
To throw or not to throw in the veggies?
Some folks advise against adding veggies to the risotto while it’s cooking in the pan, like Danielle Walsh from bon appetit. Their reasoning is the veggies will get mushy. And that is bad, agreed.
But why not throw in the veggies according to their cooking times? For example, the asparagus goes in 5 minutes before the rice is ready.
Gennaro Contaldo, obviously an Italian chef, does the same (see the video below). So, I see no problem there.
By the way: it’s fun to watch the entire video on how he makes risotto. Italian passion right there.
Cool, now you know the most important pitfalls of risotto. I’m sure you’ll get a good result right away. As with many great dishes, you’ll also improve every time you make it 🙂
Creamy Asparagus Risotto
- ½ cup risotto rice (Carnaroli gives the best results but Arborio is easier to find)
- 1 handful asparagus
- 1 tbsp butter (or double the amount olive oil)
- 1 small onion
- 1 cup peas (fresh, canned or frozen are fine)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup hard cheese, grated (and make sure it’s with vegetarian rennet of course!)
Optional – if you have them to hand, great – throw them in!
- 1 small handful mint, fresh (dried or frozen work too!)
- 1 small handful basil, fresh (again, dried or frozen work too!)
- 1 small handful parsley, fresh (again, any form will do)
- ½ cup white wine
- Chop the asparagus into small pieces.
- Finely dice an onion.
- Let the butter/oil melt in the pan and add the onion and cook until it’s translucent.
- Add the rice and toast for a minute or two. (optional: fry the rice in 1/2 cup white wine until the wine has evaporated)
- Then add 500ml of the stock and stir.
- Leave on a low simmer for 15 minutes (better stay nearby so you can give it an occasional stir)
- Add in the asparagus and peas, stir and leave for 5 more minutes.
- You probably need to add some more liquid (it will depend on the heat applied).
- Now, check the rice. It may need a few more minutes to finish cooking.
- Once the rice is soft it’s time to give it the finishing touch – if needed add a little water (add in small amounts, you don’t wanna overdo it!) and a little grated cheese to get the creaminess right.
- Remember: it needs to flow like lava.