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, diced asparagus are added in stages, from the bottom of the stalks to their tops, 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).
For this risotto variation, I made use of the Parmesan rind as a way to add more flavor, and because I love eating it in small bites together with the risotto. As I mentioned in a previous risotto recipe, the rind is added at the beginning of the preparation so that it cooks and rehydrates along with the rice. If you haven’t had Parmesan rind, however, you may find it chewy and too strong. In that case, you may want to use it just as a flavoring aid during the cooking and then discard it.
(1)Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. 2nd edition (2004)
- 2/3 cup Carnaroli rice (Arborio can also be used)
- 10 oz (300 g) asparagus (about 12 thick stalks)
- 1/2 shallot
- 1 oz (30 g) unsalted butter
- ½ glass of white wine (at room temperature)
- 3 cups of vegetable stock
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- some Parmigiano rind, scrubbed and washed
- salt and black pepper
- Wash and trim the asparagus. Thinly slice the shallot.
- Cut the asparagus in three sections: lower stalks, middle stalks, upper stalks.
- Cut the lower stalks lengthwise and add them to the vegetable stock (which you'll have boiling in a second pot).
- Slice the middle stalks in ½ inch cylinders.
- Slice the upper stalks thinly, but leaving the buds whole.
- Sauté the shallot in the butter for a couple of minutes at medium heat, then add the middle stalks.
- Add the rice and "toast it" for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the wine and set a 18-minute timer (15 if you're using Arborio rice). Stir until the wine evaporates. Then add the Parmesan rind.
- Add the asparagus-flavored vegetable stock, on ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed.
- When there are 10 minutes of cooking remaining, add the upper stalks and buds.
- When there are 5 minutes of cooking remaining, add 2/3 of the grated Parmigiano.
- 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 slightly runny.
- When the time is up, take the pot off the heat. Add "a nut" of butter and stir gently for one extra minute.
- Serve sprinkled with the rest of the Parmigiano and a hint of black pepper.
© Paolo Rigiroli
I’ve been following Rick Zullo for quite some time, he is an amazing writer who has been capturing and decoding Italy in his blog, books, and podcast. I am very honored to have him as my guest in today’s episode.
Third-generation Italian American, Rick grew up wanting to explore the land where his great-grandparents came from. After several vacations and two 3-month sabbaticals, he settled in Rome where he lived for several years and where he started a blog to chronicle his adventures. His special point of view on Italy and his ability to discuss deep and sometimes controversial themes with charm and a humor made him very successful and earned him several awards, including Italy Magazine’s 2013’s “Best Living In Italy Blog” and 2014’s “Best Overall Blog for Lovers of Italy”. Rick also published 4 popular free guides (including Best Restaurants in Italy and How to Dress like an Italian) and 4 books for Kindle.
In this episode, I asked Rick to share more about his story and the story behind some of his most popular posts. Join us for a fascinating chat on regional differences in Italy, the connection between Catholicism and superstition, how to dress like an Italian. Also in the episode, an entertaining piece on the significance of the bidet!
As promised in previous episodes (29 and 34), Diana is back on the show to talk about wine! Join us to discuss the differences between Italy and North America in wine production, as well as in how wine is consumed and socially perceived in the two countries. In the second part of the episode, Diana gives a roundup of Piedmont’s native grape varieties and world-renowned appellations, such as Barolo, Dolcetto, and Barbaresco.
Diana Zahuranec is a writer, editor, and translator at Wine Pass, an online magazine (in Italian and English) on wine and wine tourism in Piedmont. You can also find her on her blog Once Upon a Time in Italy.
Thoughts on the Table is back! Join me to meet Hannah Solomon, a marketing consultant who is doing an internship at SZ Tartufi, a company that produces truffles and truffle-based preparations in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
During the episode Hannah talks about the fascinating process of cultivating truffles, as well as the fact that the best truffles cannot be cultivated at all(!), but need to be hunted with the use of dogs (as co-founder Ugo Serafini shows in this truffle hunting video).
Hannah was also kind enough to send a small sample of their products – which of course I was super excited to try! Below you can find a delicious use of them, a recipe recommended by Hannah herself. Enjoy!
Truffle Crostini with Asparagus Tips and Poached Eggs
Ingredients for 2 servings
- 2 tablespoons of White Truffle Cream
- 10 small asparagus
- 2 eggs (the freshest that you can find)
- 2 thick slices of bread
- One drizzle of Truffle Oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Bring a large pot of water to a very gentle simmer, add the vinegar.
- Boil the asparagus for 5 minutes and set aside. Trim off the bottom part, only leaving the top 4 to 5 inches.
- Crack one egg into a small bowl, then slide it slowly into the water. Let the eggs sink to the bottom on one side of the pot. Repeat with the second egg making it land on the other side. Leave the eggs undisturbed for 4 to 5 minutes until the white feels solid.
- Meanwhile, toast the bread. Spread the White Truffle Cream on it, then lay the asparagus over top.
- Lift the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon to drain any excess liquid. Lay them over the asparagus.
- Drizzle the crostini with Truffle Oil, and enjoy!
I can hardly believe it has been 5 years since I started this project! Time flies when you’re having fun, and flies especially fast when you’re in good company – over this past year, I connected with many people and I like to believe that together we changed how Italian food is perceived around the world! Slightly, of course 🙂
By far, the biggest networking opportunity came from participating in Turin Epicurean Capital, a food literature event that saw me as a moderator. Particularly, I continued to work with fellow participant Diana Zahuranec), who has since become a recurring guest in the podcast and a great contributor to its success.
My visit to Turin also allowed me to reconnect with friend wedding planner Valentina Lombardi, who introduced me to her new project: Experience Italy Travels, a service aimed to show international travelers the true side of Italy. To help reach that goal, Valentina offered me to write: “Italy: Instructions for Use”, a fun section where I try to explain the ins and outs of Italy and of the Italians. Naturally, I accepted enthusiastically!
Recently, I also had the honor of being interviewed by Rick Zullo, awarded blogger and author of popular ebooks, as part of his new podcast: The Fatal Charm of Italy. Our chat was a lot of fun – if you want to hear us talk about the unwritten food rules that Italians follow, and much more, please head over to Rick’s blog.
As this blog completes Year Five, I would like to thank all visitors and followers for their support in the form of feedback. Please continue sending me your comments, observations, and corrections – as a blogger, nothing makes me happier!
A few days ago I had the pleasure to be invited by my friend, writer Rick Zullo to be part of his new podcast: “The Fatal Charm of Italy“. I had a fantastic time! Rick is such an amazing host, and his insatiable curiosity makes for a very insightful conversation. You can listen to the episode online or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, which is definitely what I recommend!
During the episode we touched on:
- The different perception on what “Italian food” means in North America, vs. continental Italy;
- The reason why food is such a big deal to the Italians, and why the Italians follow so many food “rules”;
- The difference in table service between Italian restaurants and North American restaurants.
I hope you’ll have as much fun listening to it than we had recording it!
Rick, thanks so much also for the kind words you used to introduce Disgraces on the Menu to your followers. Grazie di cuore, è un onore!
Continuing on the series “Italy: Instruction for Use”, this post contains useful tips on how to get by in Italian grocery stores. How do you line up in a crowd when there’s no visible queue and everyone is standing by the counter? What’s negotiable when interacting with vendors? Is it OK to ask for samples? Click here to get all the answers!
As announced in the podcast, I began writing for my friends at Experience Italy Travels – a new challenge that makes me very happy! As my usual, I will be talking about Italian traditions and culture, but I’ll also give my tips to help travelers get by in Italy, and think like Italians!
The first post in this series is about dining out in Italy. What time do Italians have dinner? Is it OK to check out the menu before sitting at the table? Is bread included with service? How about water? Is tipping expected in Italian restaurants? Why doesn’t someone bring the bill??? Click here to get all the answers☺.
Thoughts on the Table is back with my friend Valentina Lombardi, announcing her new project and my collaboration!
As part of her job as a wedding planner, Valentina has been helping people from various parts of the world discover Italy and the Italian traditions. Join us to hear how her background led to the creation of Experience Italy Travels, which also features “Italy: instructions for use“, a fun section written by yours truly☺
Congrats and best of luck to Valentina and her partners!