Among the many risotto variations, asparagus risotto (‘risotto agli asparagi’) is one of the most successful, and one of my favorites. There are a few different ways to incorporate asparagus in a risotto. In my recipe, which uses red wine, diced asparagus are added in stages, from the bottom of the stalk to its top, to ensure uniform cooking and to get the most in terms of flavor. For best results, however, it’s recommended to use the freshest possible asparagus. Since the shoots are still actively growing, even if kept in the fridge and in the dark over time they tend to consume their own sugars and to dry out(1).
(1)Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. 2nd edition (2004)
- 2/3 cup Arborio rice
- 10 oz (300 g) asparagus (about 12 thick stalks)
- 1 onion wedge
- 1 oz (30 g) unsalted butter
- ½ glass of red wine (at room temperature)
- 3 cups of vegetable stock
- ½ cup Parmigiano, grated
- salt and white pepper
- Wash and trim asparagus and onion wedge. Thinly slice the onion.
- Cut the asparagus in three sections: lower stalks, middle stalks, upper stalks.
- Slice the middle stalks in ½ inch cylinders.
- Slice the upper stalks thinly, but leaving the buds whole.
- Cut the lower stalks lengthwise and add them to the vegetable stock. Boil for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and keep simmering.
- Meanwhile, sauté the middle stalks and the sliced onion in the butter for 5 minutes at medium heat.
- Add the rice and "toast it" for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the red wine and set a 15 minutes timer. Stir until the wine evaporates.
- Add the asparagus-flavored vegetable stock, on ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed.
- After 5 minutes of cooking, add 2/3 of the Parmigiano.
- Then add the upper stalks and buds.
- Continue adding the vegetable stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed. Add the last of the stock when the rice is a couple of minutes from being ready: at the end, the risotto will need to be still slightly runny.
- When the time is up, take the pot off the heat. Add a pinch of white pepper, adjust the salt if necessary, and stir gently for one extra minute.
- Serve sprinkled with the rest of the Parmigiano, and paired with a glass of red wine.