By now, almost everyone is familiar with risotto, that creamy Italian comfort food. Although there are many variations on the basic recipe, it is always essentially the same; rice that is slow-cooked with broth, flavored with onions and wine, and finished with Parmigiano cheese and butter. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
Whatever you like to eat in your risotto is up to you; however, you should use the correct variety of short-grained, high-starch rice in order to end up with the signature creaminess of risotto. Look for Arborio (more commonly found), Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice varieties.
Allow yourself plenty of time to make this dish, because risotto should not be rushed. However, once it is plated, you do need to eat it right away.
2 quarts of low-sodium chicken broth, preferably homemade* (use vegetable broth if you would like)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half (keep 2 Tablespoons in refrigerator until ready to use)
1 cup chopped onions or shallots
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine (or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice and 1/3 cup water)
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt and pepper
Zest from organic lemon
Fresh thyme leaves
Bring the stock to a simmer in a pot. Cover the pot and keep the broth hot the entire time. Have a soup ladle ready.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion/shallots and cook for a few moments, until translucent. Add the rice and cook a few moments more, stirring until nicely coated.
Add the wine. Slowly stir, allowing rice to absorb the liquid. Once the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add ½ cup of hot broth to the rice. (I use 2 ladlefuls of hot broth at a time.) Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more broth in ½ cup increments. Stir often to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pan. Continue cooking and stirring, adding broth, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until rice is tender, but still firm (al dente), at least 20-25 minutes. Adjust heat to avoid scorching. With the last addition of broth, add the asparagus. Take off heat.
*The broth amount is approximate; you may need a little more or less. If you end up needing more broth and you have run out, use HOT water.
Stir in the Parmigiano and the remaining (refrigerated) butter cut into cubes, combine well; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle zest and thyme leaves over top, to taste. Serve immediately.
This will serve 4-6 as a main course or 6-8 as a side dish.
You can halve the recipe easily, but the leftovers are fabulous as well!