Risotto with Asparagus -from my cookbook MADE WITH LOVE – THE ITALIAN WAY
Risotto as taught by Lele in Radda in Chianti in Toscana ( in the above photo from top to bottom-Lele and her cousins, Mimma and Franca).
After I sold my business in 2007, I took a trip back to Tuscany to stay with Franca, Lele and Mimma – sisters and cousins – and grandmothers who live in amazing villas and teach cooking. I respected these women so much that I offered to write a book to chronicle their pasts and their heritage of wonderful, local Tuscan food and cooking. MADE WITH LOVE – THE ITALIAN WAY is that book. And this recipe is one of my favorites that comes from it.
Preparation Time:About 10 minutes
Cooking Time: About 20 minutes
2 handfuls per eater of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
Two bunches of asparagus ( green or white; white are only for a short season whereas green are all year)
A large Frying Pan (Important – so that you don’t have to stand and stir forever do not choose a tall pot but rather a large frying/sautéing pan).
1 Onion chopped with a dash of salt added
2 cups of Fresh Parmesan which you have grated
Olive oil to taste
Salt to taste
Asparagus stock (not vegetable stock – it will overwhelm the flavor – but it’s easy to make this – see below)
2 tbsp of butter
1. Take your large frying pan, add some oil, and when it is hot, add the onion to saute.
2. Wash the asparagus.
3. Chop off their heads! Seriously – decapitate them and put those delicious heads into a small pot and boil them until tender while you are preparing everything else – then set them aside. You will only add the heads to the risotto at the end since they are so fragile you don’t want them to disintegrate and become mush.
4.Then peel the asparagus lightly and cut off the other ends which are normally the hard parts – and put the peels and hard parts into a LARGE pot of boiling water – and let them cook with a dash of salt – that will become your asparagus stock! And nothing goes to waste.
5. Take the rest of the asparagus and chop into small pieces – then add to the pan with the onion and olive oil.
6. When you have added the pieces of asparagus to the onions and olive oil which are already soft, add a little stock if its dry and let it sauté until its color changes and then add the rice – use two handfuls per person; add the rice and stir it just a few times carefully once so that the rice and asparagus all mix, then add a couple soup ladles of asparagus stock (liquid only) until its covered and let it saute.
7. Come back every now and then and make sure that it’s covered with stock or add more, arrange a bit and leave it alone. Keep doing this but you don’t have to stand there all the time, until the rice is ready. Every 5 mins or so you add more stock – you could add the stock from the small heads of asparagus now too since that tastes so good! Continue doing this until the stock in the mixture tastes right and that the rice tastes cooked.
8. Lele’s rule: RICE WAITS FOR NO ONE =- THE EATERS WAIT FOR RICE – ie people must be sitting down when its time to serve risotto.
9. When the rice is ready to eat ( you taste it to check) add a large chunk of butter in the middle of the mixture and DON’T STIR and then put all the parmesan on top of that and then you cover the risotto and let it sit for a little while so that it all drips and blends in. Turn the heat completely off. REMEMBER: Everyone must be sitting down and ready to eat at the point that you put the butter and Parmesan onto the risotto or it will become mushy. It will integrate from the time you carry it from the kitchen to the table and settle everyone down.
10. This is wonderful on its own – or with one of our lovely salad recipes.
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