Want to make a great Asparagus Risotto? It’s way easier than you think. Also part of the crew: Zesty lemon, pungent herbs and creamy cheese for ultimate flavor and texture.
I’ve been obsessing about a handful of things lately: Velvet tufted chairs. Crazy tropical wallpaper. Asparagus risotto.
You know, just some strangely specific stuff.
Leaving velvet tufted chairs and palm leaf wallpaper aside for a minute, let’s talk about the really important part of my admittedly small list: The lemon asparagus risotto.
Is risotto difficult to make?
Now I’m well aware – risotto sounds intimidating. But really? It’s not.
Actually, risotto is our go-to weeknight dinner when we’re short on time and inconveniently “forgot” to meal plan.
Don’t get me wrong. While risotto is an easy dish to cook, it’s also one you can easily mess up.
Bad risottos are abundant: Heaps of gloopy, overcooked rice. Greasy from too much bad cheese, or – worst of all – made with heavy cream to save on butter and parmesan.
But risotto should be a delight.
It should be al dente rice in a creamy, starchy sauce
Decidedly not thick, but “running away” on the plate. Aka it should spread when you dish it out and gently shake the plate.
The creaminess of risotto should mainly come from the starch the rice releases as it cooks in just-enough liquid. I have less than 1 tablespoon of oil/butter per portion in my recipe, and there’s just the right amount of cheese.
No food coma after this meal!
Learn how to cook it once – make endless meals with it.
And once you know how to make it, you can make so many different variations. You don’t have to use asparagus. Or even lemon. Make it yours!
This recipe is mainly a good place to start: A solid, creamy, beautiful risotto. Scented with lemon zest, but again, you do you.
I love adding plenty of green spring vegetables, but you can also use pretty much any other green. Roasted Broccoli or fennel, braised kale, raw arugula.
Top with anything creamy you have left in the fridge (soured dairy works best, or a good goat’s cheese), and a pungent herb-salt-olive-oil combo.
Add slivered sun-dried tomatoes in place of the lemon. Switch up the herbs. See? Totally yours.
How to Make Asparagus Risotto:
Before you start cooking, there’s a few Rules of Risotto I’d like to address:
Should Arborio rice be washed before cooking?
First and foremost: Do not rinse the rice before cooking.
Rinsing rice removes some of the outer starch, and while that’s great when you want fluffy rice, you definitely don’t want that for risotto.
We want the starchiness to create a creamy sauce! So, no rinsing.
How to toast rice for risotto:
In my kitchen, risotto always begins with sautéing onions in a good glug of olive oil. Preferably over medium heat, low and slow, because you don’t want any color on them.
Add the garlic a few minutes later with the rice – otherwise it will burn.
And, very importantly, stick to medium heat even after adding the rice to sauté. Don’t burn it, or it will stay weirdly crunchy.
Can you make risotto without wine?
Next, you’re going to deglaze the pan with white wine.
You can absolutely cook risotto without wine (just use some extra chicken stock instead), but it’s “you can” in the sense that the dish will still come together.
For that traditional risotto flavor? Wine is a must.
In case you’re wondering, I just buy very non-bourgeois organic wine at the grocery store. I might be obnoxious when it comes to chocolate and cheese, but strangely enough I’m 0% snobbish when it comes to wine.
Do you need to stir risotto all the time?
Finally, the stirring begins. Add chicken stock, half a cup, and gently cook the risotto until it looks “thirsty”.
Then you add another half a cup of chicken stock, and the stirring continues.
But that’s actually where I become totally reckless. Because I definitely do not stir risotto all the time.
Sure, I’ll give it a good whirl every few minutes, but I don’t go crazy. And it turns out perfectly fine.
Should risotto be creamy?
Last but not least, you’ll want to keep an eye on the doneness of your rice.
It shouldn’t be overcooked. Cook it to al dente, so that it retains a slight bite.
Make sure there’s enough starchy sauce to smother the rice in. It shouldn’t be a soupy sauce, but definitely creamy.
What do you add to risotto in the end?
Cook the asparagus separately – I roast asparagus in a very simple, unfussy way and it’s perfect for this recipe.
Then gently stir it into the risotto at the end, or serve it on top, whatever tickles your fancy.
The peas can just go into the pot during the last couple of minutes of cooking. Right before the asparagus. Easy peasy, orange squeezy.
Finally, add butter, lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese to the pot of hot, steaming rice.
Now resist the urge to stir it in straight away – this is a trick I learned from Heston Blumenthal:
Slightly push it into the rice, but do not stir. Close the pot with a lid and leave it for a few minutes, but no longer than 5.
Then stir well, and do your last-minute tinkering:
Check for seasoning, then serve straight away with the gremolata and a dollop of Crème Fraîche to offset the richness – it’s what takes your lemon asparagus risotto from good to unforgettable.
Which is exactly what risotto should be: An unforgettable experience. But still one you can have any night of the week.
Herby Lemon Asparagus Risotto
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For the Risotto:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups chicken stock kept hot (but not boilinin a saucepan on the stove
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 bunch asparagus trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Crème Fraîche to serve
For the Herb Sauce:
- 1/2 cup mint leaves chopped
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Start the risotto:
- Sauté onions, garlic and rice: Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and gently cook until softened, without adding color, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and sauté until the rice looks translucent. Pour in the white wine and simmer until evaporated while stirring.
- Cook risotto: Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and simmer over medium heat while stirring from time to time. Once the rice starts looking dry/"thirsty", add another 1/2 cup of stock. Continue this way with all the chicken stock, until the rice is JUST al dente and creamy (not thick and gloopy, but not watery either – Italians say risotto should gently "wave" when it's done), adding the frozen peas with the final 1/2 cup of stock.
While the risotto is simmering:
- Prepare the asparagus: Cook the asparagus the way you like best. Roasting: 10 minutes at 420°F, coated in some olive oil, salt and pepper. Pan-frying: Pan-fry in olive oil for 5-10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Steaming: Steam 4-5 minutes.
- Make the herb sauce: Combine all ingredients for the herb sauce in a small bowl.
Finish the risotto:
- Take the cooked risotto off the heat. Carefully stir in the cooked asparagus. Place the lemon zest, parmesan and butter on top of the rice and gently push it down. Do not stir yet. Close the lid and let the risotto sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir carefully, check for seasoning and serve immediately topped with Creme Fraiche and herb sauce.