Rice is born in water and must die in wine. – Italian proverb
Mm, risotto. The creamy arborio rice dish accepts all sorts of additions, especially vegetables of all kinds. One of my favorite risottos, right up there with mushroom, is asparagus risotto. When the asparagus season wanes and we’ve had our fill of steamed or pan-roasted, or oven-roasted, or with-an-egg-on-top asparagus, I like to make this risotto before the weather turns too hot to want to attend a stove for half an hour or more.
So many risotto ingredients are white: the wine, the rice, the cream, the cheese. Choose a light broth base, and you get a stunning white dish.
I fail at this. My base is brown, and tints the rice a pale amber. However, I LIVED.
The old proverb above refers, in part, to the wine customarily used in making risotto. Wine is added just before you begin pouring in the water/broth that the rice is going to absorb, to relax the starches with its acidity and add a subtle, fruity note to the dish.
I think it’s to get a bottle of wine opened up so you have to finish it. Yes, you have to finish the wine, by hook or by crook.
If in the mood, I love the attentiveness risotto requires. Adding 1 cup of liquid at a time, and stirring until it’s absorbed is a bit meditative, if you’re weird that way. I am.
One cup down, 4 to go. One glass down, several to go.
The liquid is absorbed, and a small flurry of activity gets cooked chopped asparagus, cream, Parmesan, and salt and pepper stirred in until you could cry at the pinnacle of starchiness and smoothness.
One last look. Now eat.
This is an excellent risotto base recipe. Substitute ½ to 1 pound of any other vegetable or vegetable combination. Just make sure the vegetables are cooked to your liking before adding to the risotto at the end. Adapted from a recipe by RiceSelect.
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, diagonally sliced into 1-inch pieces
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base the best)
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped yellow onion (1 small onion)
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
⅓ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
¼ 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Have all ingredients measured and ready before preparing the asparagus risotto. You’ll be glad you did.
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring water and broth to a simmer. Turn down the burner to its lowest setting and cover to keep warm. This water-broth mixture is what we will add to the arborio rice, cup by cup, until it’s all absorbed.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Cook onion in the butter about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add rice and stir for a couple minutes, coating each grain in the butter-onion mixture. You may notice some browning in the pan as the rice’s starch hits it. That’s okay; just don’t let the rice itself brown.
Add wine and stir until it’s absorbed. The wine will sizzle but it won’t jump out at you dangerously. Just thought I’d let you know so you aren’t too surprised. What the wine will do is deglaze the bottom and quickly soak into the rice.
Now it’s time to begin cooking the rice. You’ll be stirring almost constantly for perhaps 20 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and pour in 1 cup of the water-broth mixture. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
Continue this process: Once the cup of water-broth mixture is absorbed, add another cup of it and keep stirring. Repeat until all liquid is absorbed, or until the rice is tender. I’ve always used the entire 5 cups of water-broth mixture.
You’ve made risotto! Now’s the part where we make it awesome risotto. Stir in the cooked asparagus, cream, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Leftovers keep well in the fridge and freeze well too. It’s even good cold. Enjoy.
Nutrition information per serving: 226 calories; 7.5g fat; 22mg cholesterol; 538mg sodium; 30g carbohydrate; 2.6g fiber; 2.2g sugars; 7.3g protein; 16% vitamin A; 8% vitamin C; 9% calcium; 13% iron