We have our tickets back to Italy this summer! After watching airline prices for months on end, we finally saw them drop to a reasonable price, and we quickly booked.
After spending a few days in Rome to visit family and friends and to celebrate the 3rd birthday of our two adorable nephews, Flavio and Davide, we plan on heading north to the visit the Piedmont region of Italy. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, in the far northwestern part of Italy, Piedmont is home to the Nebbiolo grape, from which some of Italy’s most prestigious wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, are produced.
Inspired by upcoming trip to northern Italy and to the arrival of spring and the seasonal vegetables that accompany it, today we prepared risotto agli asparagi, or asparagus risotto. More heavily influenced by central and southern Italian cuisine, risotto is not a dish that we often make, and we don’t at all profess to be experts. However, risotto is one of those dishes that has transcended its regional origins and has become known across the world as a classic Italian dish. Plus, it’s simply delicious, so we’ve tried our hand at it and love the results.
There are a few important keys to a good, authentic risotto. First, use a short grain, plump rice such as arborio. This rice has a high starch content, which is essential to a creamy risotto. Second, toast your rice in olive oil, butter or both before adding liquid to it. Third, be sure to heat your vegetable broth until boiling, and add it very gradually to your risotto while stirring continually. The hot broth and stirring motion causes the rice to release its starch, which is what gives risotto its unique creaminess.
for 4 people
400 grams (approx. 2 cups) rice, preferably arborio
1 lb. (450 g) asparagus
1/2 of a medium onion, minced
1 qt (approx. 1 liter) vegetable broth
2 cups (250 ml) water
2 Tbsp. butter (approx. 30 g)
2 Tbsp. olive oil (approx. 30 ml)
1 cup (approx. 100 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cut the bottom 1/3 off of the asparagus spears and cook them in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a wide saucepan over low heat. Add the olive oil and the minced onions and sauté for 5 minutes, paying attention that they don’t brown. Add the rice to the onions, and stir until all grains are coated in the oil and butter. Let the rice toast in the sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cut the tips off of the cooked asparagus, and chop the spears into 1/4 inch (just over .5 cm) pieces. Discard any tough parts of the spear, and add the tips and chopped asparagus to the rice and onion mixture. Stir together.
In a separate saucepan, bring the vegetable broth and water to a boil. Adjust the heat of the rice mixture to medium-low, and add the broth to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring well in between until the rice absorbs the liquid and the risotto assumes a creamy consistency. Be patient; this process will take 30-40 minutes. When the last of the liquid is absorbed, stir in the grated Parmigiano. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and serve immediately with a dusting of Parmigiano on top.
We recommend pairing risotto agli asparagi with a Vecchie Scuole Sauvignon Blanc from Fattori. This wine from the Veneto region has a nice floral nose and delicate grassy flavor that recalls green vegetables and is especially suited to asparagus risotto.