Serves 2-3 as a main dish, or 4-5 as a side dish.
1 bunch asparagus
1 large leek (or white onion, diced)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, or wild garlic, rough chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine, optional- or skip it
700g veg stock
Small bunch basil leaves
1 lemon, zest and some juice to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
lemon zest, basil ribbons, pecorino cheese, toasted pinenuts, chili flakes, Leek oil or a drizzle of olive oil.
Blanch the asparagus.
1. Cut the fibrous ends off the asparagus and discard.
2. Cut the tips off (about 1.5 inches) and set them aside.
3. Chop the “middles” into 1-inch pieces.
4. Set aside 1.5 cups of the “middles”, to stir into the risotto at the end to give it its beautiful vibrant colour and creamy texture.
5. Add any remaining “middles” to the tips and keep these set aside.
6. In the small pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus “middles”, for about 5 minutes until tender and vibrant.
7. Drain, and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
8. Blend the blanched asparagus with the 1 cup cooking liquid, 2 tablespoons oil and the basil leaves until silky smooth. Set this aside to add to the risotto at the end.
1. Thinly slice leeks or white onion into half-moons, rinse away any dirt and strain.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot over a medium heat.
3. Add leeks and sauté until softened, 5-6 minutes.
4. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes, until fragrant.
5. Add arborio rice and stir to coat, one minute.
6. Deglaze with white wine (if using) and cook the wine off.
7. Add 1 cup of stock, scraping up any browned bits, bring to a gentle simmer, over med-low heat stirring occasionally, letting the rice absorb the all the broth.
8. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time, letting the rice absorb it slowly, each time, stirring often.
9. When you add the last cup of stock, add the pile of asparagus with the tips, and continue cooking for 3 minutes. At this point, rice should be creamy yet slightly al dente.
1. Stir in blended asparagus-basil “sauce”, add salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and taste. Adding Pecorino will also add more depth and flavour.
3. Heat gently over low heat letting it thicken a bit taking care not to cook too long here, or you’ll lose the vibrant colour.
4. Divide among bowls, garnish with pecorino cheese, lemon zest and chili flakes or a drizzle of leek oil .
If you’d like to add a protein, add peas or edamame to the risotto, or top the risotto with fish or seafood- scallops, shrimp, salmon, chicken or halibut, etc.
Sauteed mushrooms would be nice here too, along with a drizzle of truffle oil. Recipe photo includes maitake mushrooms.