Saturday, March 26, 2011

Asparagus Risotto or Si Place (Do as you please.)

There are crocuses.  Perfect harbingers of spring.

So determined, these bloomed indoors.

But the spring...there's nothing like it.  And, unlike the beautiful crocus, you can actually chew it up.  Of course, the crocus stamen is edible and we call it  We call it saffron.

Risotto, that dish we think of as so very special (but which the Italians just think of as rice) is one of those often made for a side that is perfect for  a main course as well.  Especially for the solo cook.  Most people make it in larger quantities, but, like pasta, it can be made in small batches as well.  An inexpensive, but hearty meal, it's sufficient unto its own.  A bit of Parmesan cheese added and you have vegetables, starch and protein. 
Sauteing the asparagus and onion before adding the rice.
At sea level, my risotto was a bit softer than al dente (I like it like that.) in about 25 minutes.  You cannot rush the cooking by turning up the heat; only time and care finishes the risotto.  It takes nearly constant supervision.  So if you don't care for that kind of cooking, don't make it.  Or make the same dish as a sopa seca (dry soup) or a pilaf (no constant adding of stock and stirring-just saute, and add 2x as much liquid as rice--cover and cook on low or bake) and blend in cheese with a bit of cream at the end for a fake "risotto."  Of course, it will no longer be a risotto.

Invest in yourself.  Enjoy a glass of white wine (I liked a Chardonnay, but a Sauvignon Blanc would drink.) with the cooking and the dinner.  By the way, most asparagus risotto recipes call for a little wine (1/4 cup to replace some of the stock); si place.  Do as you like.  I made this particular one with all stock.

You need two pots--one for the stock and one for the risotto.
Asparagus Risotto (Risotto agli asparagi) 2 small  servings or 1 large

1T olive oil
12 stalks of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed (Bend it; use the part above the break), cut into 1" pieces
1/4 c onion, chopped (I liked a red onion.)  Shallots are often used. Save a little onion for garnish and crunch.
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c Arborio rice
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t freshly ground pepper (white if you have it and like it)
Pinch each crushed red pepper and herbes de Provence (optional) or can sub a bit of thyme or sprinkle with fresh parsley at end
2 cups  vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Skip cheese for vegan version.)

  1. In a  two-quart, heavy (if you have it) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the asparagus and onion for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes, making sure the rice is well coated with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Meantime, heat the vegetable or chicken stock to a boil and lower heat to keep warm.
  3. Using a measuring cup, stir a half-cup of stock into the rice.  Cook, stirring until the liquid is totally absorbed being careful not to let the rice get too dry and stick or burn.
  4. Repeat adding just a half-cup of stock at a time and cooking until stock is absorbed until stock is gone and rice is done to your liking.  Some people like the rice with a tiny bit of chew; some like it soft.  If the rice isn't done and your warm stock is gone, heat more stock or water and continue until dish is finished.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan, serve in a heated bowl and top with a bit of minced red onion or fresh parsley.  Give the dish an extra grind of pepper as you serve it.

The Solo Cook Notes
If you hasten the cooking, your stock will be gone but your rice won't be done.  Be patient.  Risotto is worth waiting for.  Also, some people like it with a bit more stock (in brodo)--a bit on the "soupy" side.  I'm in favor of the thicker version.

Some people like risotto a bit soupy; I like mine like this...especially for a side.
There are many kinds of risotto and the others don't have asparagus!  Try peas (put in at the end); try butternut squash and pancetta or bacon (cooked well at the beginning like the asparagus). You can make risotto without any additions or just with a bit of onion and celery.  Go to and check out the possibilities.

By the way, the arborio rice isn't cheap.  Perhaps you can share a jar with a friend or buy just a bit in bulk?

What a deal--all in one pot, filling and nutritious. 
Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


  1. This will be on the spring list of things that Alyce likes (which is all the endorsement I need). This sounds delicious!

  2. Fantastic! Risotto is so much work but so worth it! Love the asparagus, spring is in the air on the Dinner Place!

  3. Thanks!!
    You might wan to try my asparagus-mushroom salad with balsamic vinaigrette and poached egg on

    If you like asparagus, that is. Ah, spring.


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