My favorite way to welcome the beginning of Spring is to eat as much local asparagus as possible! It’s sweet and tender – perfect to be enjoyed in so many different ways. One of my favorites is in this risotto.
Risotto, a classic Italian rice dish, might sound complicated to you, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. SECRET: you don’t need a special pan and you don’t need to stir it constantly. It’s a great dish to master, as it works so well for a weeknight and a dinner party alike! It’s creamy, delicious and so flexible, as it can easily be changed with the seasons.
Spring Asparagus Risotto
6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ c. chopped mint
½ c. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus
4 oz. pancetta, diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ c. arborio rice (short grain Italian rice)
½ c. white wine
4 c. chicken stock
½ c. parmigiano-reggiano
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Place the butter into a small bowl and add the lemon zest, mint, parsley, a large pinch of salt and pepper, and mix to combine really well. Set aside.
- Next, to prepare the asparagus you’ll first need to bring about an inch of water to a boil in a saute pan and add a big pinch of salt. You’ll also need to prepare an ice bath by placing a bunch of ice and cold water in a bowl. Take one spear of the asparagus and bend it until it snaps at its natural breaking point. Line that spear up with the rest of the bunch and cut off the bottom woody end. Then, grabbing a few spears at a time, slice horizontally into thin ‘coins’ until you reach the tips. Keep the tips intact, just as they are – they will be used to garnish the risotto at the end, while the coins will be mixed into the risotto (see video).
- When the water has reached the boil, add the tips of the asparagus and let them simmer for about a minute, then add all the coins and cook for an additional minute. Scoop out the asparagus and place directly into the ice bath, as this will stop the cooking process and set that beautiful green color. Once the asparagus is cool, drain it, separate tips and coins, and set aside.
- Discard the asparagus water and return the pan to the burner.
- Next, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until the fat has rendered and it is just starting to crisp up, and then remove it to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside, but leave the rendered fat in the pan.
- Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, but not browned. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until toasted and opaque – about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is fully absorbed.
- Add chicken stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stir occasionally, and cook until rice is tender and creamy, but still al dente – about 15 minutes.
- When adding the last ladle of stock, let it come up to a simmer, and then shut off the heat. The risotto will seem liquid-y, but it will thicken as the butter and cheese are added.
- Add the herb butter, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, pancetta and asparagus coins and stir really well to incorporate (the correct texture of risotto is that is should be loose and creamy – when you run your spoon through the pan, the risotto should run back; it should not be solid and moldable – this is a sign of being overcooked)
- Top with asparagus tips and ENJOY!
- Don’t want to use chicken stock? No problem – you can easily substitute vegetable stock.
- Want to make it vegan? No problem – omit pancetta, substitute vegetable stock and vegan dairy products.
- Don’t have pancetta or can’t find it? No problem – you can substitute bacon or omit it altogether.
- Don’t want to use wine? No problem – you can just add another ½ cup of stock.
- Want to add protein? No problem – you can easily add roasted salmon or chicken or sauteed shrimp or scallops.
- Have leftovers? No problem – you can form the risotto into cakes, bread them and cook them in olive oil – delish with a salad
Hello, I’m Natalie! I’m a professionally-trained chef, culinary instructor and recipe developer living in Ann Arbor. A career change, a trip through culinary school 20 years ago, and being a lifelong Julia Child enthusiast has led me to a career doing my very favorite thing: making food and cooking approachable to home cooks of all ages!
My passion for creating great food experiences and getting people excited about learning and having fun in the kitchen is always at the heart of what I do. You can find me at NatalieMarbleCooks.com. And on social media you can find me at @NatalieMarbleCooks. Sign up for my bi-weekly email newsletter here, where I share family-friendly recipes, tips & tricks, new class information, and hopefully a little inspiration!