Asparagus risotto is one of the most common and loved risotto recipe in Italy. When Spring comes and the first asparagus appear in the market stalls, this is one of the first recipe I ever cook. It’s creamy, flavorful and delicious. A perfect way to celebrate the season!
While I was still living in the Tuscan countryside with my boyfriend, we were always waiting for 2 main seasons: Fall for Porcini mushrooms and Spring for wild asparagus. There were many woods to explore in Tuscany and we would spend hours at time, looking for delicious mushrooms and asparagus. When you find the perfect spot, it becomes your most sacred secret.
It becomes a sort of treasure hunt in nature, in which your prize is a fantastic ingredient that will turn into delicious food on your table.
Wild asparagus are quite difficult to find though. They are really thin and tall and they hide very well within the thorny bushes. If you don’t hunt them yourself, you’ll need to be very lucky to ever see them on a market stall, because of how rare and precious they are.
So most of the time we have to rely on cultivated asparagus, which are bigger and stiffer, but still very delicious.
Most of the times you can also find in the supermarket 2 types of green asparagus: large and tall or thin and short. The large ones are great for any preparation, but the thin ones are better when left intact as I did in the recipe of cheese Cappelletti with Asparagus sauce. Because they are so thin, they cook really fast and their flavor is quite delicate.
How to clean asparagus
Asparagus grow in the dirt so the first thing you should do is to carefully wash them. When you handle asparagus, always be careful of the tip, it’s very delicate and it’s the most flavorful part of the asparagus, so you don’t want to ruin it.
The bottom part of the asparagus is hard and woody so it should always be cut off. On the large asparagus, cut about 1 inch off the end (usually the color of the bad part is washed out, turning to white or purple). For the thin asparagus you can bend with your hands the bottom part and it will snap.
Some cooks also peel the asparagus. This is optional and the reason for peeling the stalk is to make the asparagus more tender, as the outer “skin” is slightly harder because it acts as a protective film. If you decide to peel them, use a potato peeler and peel only the bottom half of the asparagus.
How to cook asparagus
You can cook them in many ways but you need to be careful to not overcook them or undercook them.
- Boiling/Blanching. The most common way to cook asparagus is to boil it. It’s important to remember that the asparagus doesn’t cook uniformly, the tips will cook much faster than the stalks because they’re more tender and delicate. So always make sure you leave the tips out of the water when you boil or blanch them. To do so, tie the asparagus together with a string and keep them stending up on the pot. The tips will gently cook with the steam while the stalks boil for 5-10 minutes.
- Steaming. The best way to preserve all the vitamins and minerals is to steam the asparagus. The steaming time is about 15 minutes.
- Sauté. You can cook the thin asparagus (like the wild ones) directly in a pan, as they’ll cook much faster. For the larger ones, you can sauté them after blanching them as described above. Cook in butter or oil (with the addition of other ingredients such as garlic or chili pepper if you want) for about 10 minutes.
- Roasted. Another common cooking method is by roasting the asparagus with oil and the addition of other ingredients (Parmigiano cheese or garlic for example). You can either blanch them first and then roast for 10 minutes, or start from the raw ones and bake for 20 minutes at 190°C (375°F).
- 160 g (3/4 cup) Risotto Rice (Carnaroli)
- 6 large Asparagus
- 1 large slice Cheese Beemster or Gouda
- 2-3 tbsp Butter
- 500 ml (2 cups) Vegetable Stock
- 1/2 glass White Wine
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
- Black Pepper
- In a small saucepan heat up the vegetable stock or bouillon and bring to boil. Blanch the asparagus in the stock (with the tips out of the water) until you can easily pierce the stalk with a knife (5-10 minutes).
- Remove the asparagus from the stock and turn down the heat to keep it warm.
- Slice the asparagus (leaving the tips full) and sauté in a large pan with a knob of butter, until they start to brown. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat. Keep the tips and few of the slices aside for later and blend the remaining asparagus in a mixer with a few tablespoons of stock, until you get a cream.
- In the same pan, add the rice and toast at high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine and let it evaporate completely.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low and add some of the vegetable stock, until the rice is covered. Add more stock once the liquid is absorbed.
- After 10 minutes, add the asparagus cream to the rice and keep cooking for another 8-10 minutes, adding more stock or water when necessary.
- When the rice is cooked (al dente), add the chopped cheese, the grated Parmigiano cheese, another knob of butter and mix well. The risotto should have a creamy consistency, not too stiff and not too loose.
- Serve immediately, decorating with the asparagus tips.
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