Risotto with asparagus (con asparagi) is my choice as the nicest vegetable risotto. The
asparagus tips are reserved to be served still al dente (i.e. tender but still firm to the
bite), whilst the rest of the asparagus cooks until it has almost dissolved. Once I had this
risotto at a well–known London restaurant, with only a very small amount of the new
season’s asparagus in it I later wondered whether I was seriously ill because of the
extraordinarily wonderful aroma that accompanied micturition.
Mise en Place
Make a vegetable stock: put 1.5 litres / 2 ½ pt of water and the wine in a large pan
and bring to the boil. Peel and trim the asparagus. Put the trimmings in the boiling
water together with a diced carrot, the bay leaf and the larger of the two onions,
peeled and quartered. After it returns to the boil, bubble for 20 minutes and no
longer. Strain through a sieve into another saucepan and return to the boil.
Peel and finely chop the smaller onion • Cut off the tips from the asparagus and
blanch these briefly in the vegetable stock (say 2-3 minutes, no more). Remove
and reserve • Chop the asparagus stalks finely and poach them in the vegetable
stock until tender. Remove and reserve.
With the vegetable stock simmering gently on the stove, melt the butter in a deep
heavy-bottomed pan with sloping sides over a medium heat then sauté the onion
until translucent. Add the chopped asparagus stalks and sauté with the onion over a
moderate heat for about 2 minutes. Add the unrinsed rice and continue to sauté,
stirring to coat with the butter and onion mixture and being careful not to brown
by using too high a heat. It is at this point that you should hear the rice ‘clicking’
against the side of the pan as you stir. Add the wine and boil for a minute, stirring
all the time.
Add a ladleful of simmering stock and stir until it is absorbed. As soon as it is,
add another ladleful and continue to repeat this process until the stock is nearly
finished. Throughout the cooking of the rice, you must stir constantly, being sure to
push the spoon firmly – but not roughly – against the sides and base of the pan to
prevent any rice from sticking.
After 15 minutes, taste: the rice should be al dente, i.e. tender but firm to the
bite and not chalky. If insufficiently cooked and there is no stock left, add boiling
water a half ladleful at a time until it is.
When you are satisfied that the risotto is cooked , draw the pan off the heat. Do
not, however, grate the Parmesan cheese, or mix it in when cooking is completed.
Serve the cooked risotto in large warmed soup plates, apportioning the asparagus
tips equally, and finish by shaving over curls of Parmesan cheese using a potato or
450g I /lb young green asparagus
I glass ( 150ml I 1/4pt) of dry white
2 onions ( one large, one small)
55g I 2oz unsalted butter
350g I 12oz Arborioo r other risotto
salt and pepper
55g I 2oz Reggiano Parmesan
cheese, to serve
2 large saucepans
large heavy-based pan for the
risotto, preferablyw ith sloping
sides ( see right)
potato or asparagus peeler