I am so ready for spring! Apparently, spring is not quite ready for us. We got a bit of snow on the first day of spring, and a bit more yesterday. Today, I am straddling the seasons with this Early Spring Risotto. I’m using asparagus and snow peas in this recipe, my favorite early spring vegetables. But it is still chilly here, and the creamy richness of the risotto is comforting, something we’ll need as we await our record setting snow to melt. Digging into this tasty dish can make you forget about the winter!
I do tend to think of risotto as a cold weather dish; stirring that risotto pot is a nice winter activity. But one of risotto’s great features is that it can be adapted to capture the flavors of the season. For instance, for a fall #SundaySupper, I shared Risotto with Butternut Squash, Chicken and Sage. So it was the perfect canvass on which to add some spring colors and flavors!
In addition to the asparagus and snow peas, I pureed some mint and garlic to use in the final stages of the risotto making. I’ve done a version of this risotto with a basil emulsion before, but somehow mint seems to say spring even more. But you could definitely substitute basil for the mint here.
The detailed instructions are in the recipe card, but a few quick risotto pointers if you haven’t made risotto or had much success with it. Many recipes say to cook the risotto for about 20 minutes, gradually ladling in the liquid. I find it takes closer to 40 minutes to get the risotto nice and tender. This isn’t a dish to be rushed! You don’t have to stir constantly, but don’t wander too far from the pot. Stir every few minutes with a good sturdy spoon. You can find recipes that will promise you faster risotto, but I’d gladly put mine up against those in a taste test.
Slow, gradual cooking is one key to great risotto. Another is awesome cheese! I use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grating the amount needed for the dish from a nice chunk of cheese. This is the kind of parm that is tasty to nibble by itself, enjoying that rich nutty flavor.
Once the risotto is nice and tender, stir in the cheese, followed by the mint and veggies. Serve this right away, risotto is at its best right after its done cooking. Enjoy with a crisp Italian white wine, and let the warmth of the dish reming you of balmy spring days to come!
- ½ cup mint
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 extra tbsps olive oil
- 1½ cup sweet onions such as Vidalia, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 7 cups vegetable broth
- 1 bunch asparagus, rough ends trimmed, the remainder cut into pieces of about 2 inches
- 2 cups snap peas, ends trimmed, pods cut in half
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to pass at table
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Puree the mint, garlic and ¼ cup of olive oil in a food processor. Set aside for later use.
- Bring the broth to a gentle boil and then lower the heat to keep it warm, on burner handy to where you’ll be cooking the risotto.
- Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in sturdy pot for making the risotto. Add the onion and sauté in the olive oil on medium heat until it softens, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the rice, and stir to get it all well coated with the onions and oil. Cook for about one minute, then stir in the wine. Stir frequently, and cook until the wine is pretty well absorbed.
- Once the wine has been absorbed, it’s time to begin gradually adding the stock to to pot. Add one cup of stock to the rice, and stir frequently. I keep it around medium heat, but go a bit higher if things seem to be going very slow, then lower the heat if it starts boiling.
- When the first cup of broth is absorbed, add another. This process continues until the stock is used or mostly used, and the rice is getting tender. You need to be stirring frequently (i.e. every couple of minutes). I find the rice takes about 40 minutes to get nice and tender.
- Steam the vegetables while keeping an eye on the risotto. The steaming time will vary based on the thickness of the asparagus, about 3 minutes of steaming ought to do for medium asparagus. When the veggies are done, drain and rinse with cold water to keep them from cooking more, then drain again and set aside to add to the risotto later.
- After about 40 minutes and all the liquid has been stirred into the risotto, test the risotto. It should be tender but still a bit firm, similar to al dente pasta. You can stir in a half cup of water if you need to soften it a bit more.
- When the rice is ready, turn the heat down to medium low, and stir in Parmigiano Reggiano and a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the cheese has been incorporated, stir in the veggies and mint puree. Cook on low for a minute or two so the cheese melts and the flavors are incorporated. Add a generous grind or two of pepper and stir in the lemon juice. Add a bit of salt to taste if you desire, but with the cheese you don’t need much if any additional salt. Enjoy!
Be sure to check out all the tasty creations from the #SundaySupper bloggers!
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