Springtime Risotto

It was a warm and sunny weekend in New York and summer was in the air. Why does spring come and go so quickly? I was determined to cook a spring themed meal even though my grill was calling my name from our terrace. The asparagus was fresh at our local produce store, so I decided a springtime risotto was in order.

Risotto seems like a cold weather dish, perfect for fall and winter, but I enjoy it year round. It is hands down my favorite thing to make. A good risotto is not as difficult to make as most people think. No constant stirring required. Just don’t ignore the pot for too long.

Springtime Risotto – serves 4
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the broth or stock to a boil over medium high heat. Add the asparagus, and let boil for 1 minute. You don’t want it to over cook. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat this process with the peas. Reduce heat, cover and keep the liquid warm.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large metal pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, but not browned. Add the rice and stir until the grains gain a shiny complexion, much like a pearl. Do not brown the rice. Pour in the wine and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Now you’re ready to add the broth. Ladle in enough broth to just cover the rice, approximately 3 ladlefuls. Season with some salt and stir. Let the rice rest until the liquid is mostly absorbed and small pockets appear on the top. Add some more broth, season, and stir. Repeat this process until your risotto has reached the desired consistency, checking for seasoning along the way.

Once the risotto is nice and creamy, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated parmesan cheese, and the asparagus and peas. Season with salt and pepper if needed, and serve immediately.

A Hearty Winter Risotto

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Risotto is famous in Piemonte and is the perfect comfort food. Although I make it year round, I especially enjoy making a pot of Risotto on a chilly winter’s night. At this time of year, I like it to be heartier than usual. The simple addition of carrots and celery does it for me. And because my wife is a vegetarian, you won’t see me using chicken stock.  Vegetable stock produces a darker risotto than vegetable broth and adds to the heartiness factor. Risotto is easy. Here’s my recipe.

Bring 4 cups of vegetable broth to a simmer on the stove top. Keep warm.

In a separate pot, sautee the following in 2 tablespoons of butter (not olive oil) over medium heat:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large celery stock, chopped

Once the onions are tender, add 1 1/4 cups of arborio rice to the vegetables.  Stir until the rice grains shimmer and look like little pearls, approximately 2-3 minutes. At this point, add a couple of ladles full of the warm broth – just enough to lightly cover the rice and vegetables.  Add a bit of salt, give it a quick stir and let simmer over medium heat. Once the broth has been absorbed, give the rice another quick stir and then add some more broth and a tad more salt. Continue this practice until the risotto has the desired tenderness.  If you run out of stock, you can add some wine at the end, or some water. I usually have a tiny bit of stock left over. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan or grana padano, season to taste and serve immediately.

So not to over power the risotto, we drank 2010 Dolcetto d’Alba from one of our favorites, Elvio Cogno. Delicious!