Risotto is medium-grain rice (traditionally Italian-grown Arborio) cooked with hot broth and stirred constantly to turn its starch into a creamy sauce. Asparagus and leeks are the classic combination for risotto. To keep the asparagus from turning into mesh, I cooked it first until its crisp-tender, transferred to the plate and stirred it into the rice just before the serving. Adding a splash of lemon juice and the gremolata added an extra round of flavors. To make this dish vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. Onions can be substituted for the leeks (2 minced medium onions (2 cups). At the end of cooking, you may have up to a cup of broth left over. This risotto has fresh yet complex taste with vegetables that retain some crisp bite.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon finally grated zest from 1 lemon
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and spears cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, washed and sliced thin (about 4 cups)
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth ( or use vegetable broth)
- 3 cups water
- 5 tablespoons good olive oil ( or can use butter)
- salt and ground pepper
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 Arbario rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 teaspoon juice for serving
- For the Gremolata: Combine ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- For the Risotto: Boil broth and water in medium saucepan, cover and set over low heat to keep broth warm.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add asparagus spears, pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 4-6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside.
- Add 3 tablespoons oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leaks are softened, 4-5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 2-3 minutes.
- When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of the pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 3-4 times until rice is al dante. Off heat, stir in remaining tablespoon oil or butter, parmesan, and lemon juice; gently fold in asparagus and peas. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto.
- Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with gremolata and parmesan cheese.
Adopted with changes from “Cooks illustrated” magazine, May/June, 2008