In my continuing quest to eat every spear of Asparagus grown in Northern California this Spring, I decided to make an Asparagus and Lemon Risotto.  As I’ve said before, I love a good risotto.  While they take a bit of time to make, it is a very simple process.  And when you have access to quality spring vegetables like asparagus, risotto is a great way to highlight them.  In this recipe video, I show you how to make an asparagus risotto accented with lemon; which I bring in via the zest and a bit of Meyer lemon infused olive oil.  I love make this for special guests or just a quite note at home.  And I hope you love it as much as I do.

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

Here are the keys that I’d like you to watch out for:

  1. Risotto is made with short grain arborio rice; you can’t do this other types
  2. And… like all pasta, you need to be careful about over, or under cooking it.  Risotto takes about 25 minutes, but I start tasting my rice just before 20 minutes and then every couple minutes after that.
  3. I like to blanch my asparagus, and add it to the rice at the every end.  This prevents getting over cooked, flabby stalks.
  4. In this version, I make a fairly light risotto, adding just a touch of cream & cheese.  For “spring” meals, that is what I like; but you can use a heavier hand if you’d like.

Ingredients for Asparagus Risotto with Lemon (for two)

  • 5 – 6 stalks of fresh Asparagus
  • 1 lemon
  • Lemon infused olive oil (optional)
  • Arborio Rice – half cup (about a quarter cup per person)
  • Butter – 2 tablespoons
  • 1 Shallot – finely diced
  • Garlic – a mined clove
  • White wine – a third of a cup
  • Chicken Stock -  4 – 6 cups
  • Parmesan cheese  - 1 – 2 tablespoons
  • Mascarpone cheese – 1 – 2 tablespoons (I substituted cream cheese)

Making the Risotto

  • I like to start the risotto (which takes 25 – 30 minutes), and while it cooks, you can blanch the asparagus & zest the lemon
  • Put the chicken stock over the flame and heat until near simmering; adjust the heat to keep it at that temperature.
  • To a hot sauté pan, add 1 -2 tablespoons olive oil to coat the bottom, and then sauté the diced shallot and garlic until softened 
  • Add the risotto (if needed add a bit more olive oil) and toast the rice for 2 – 3 minutes. The rice should give off a slightly nutty aroma, and start to become a bit translucent.
  • After a few minutes, add the white wine and stir the rice until the wine is mostly evaporated.  If you notice the garlic starting to brown before you added the wine; add the wine immediately, as that will cool the pan and stop the garlic from burning.  You don’t want burned garlic.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Add enough of the hot stock to just submerge the rice, and then keep it at a simmer, stirring every few minutes.  Let the stock get absorbed, and repeat until the rice is just cooked through – about 20 minutes.
  • While the risotto is cooking, blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water; and then shock to stop the cooking and set the color
  • Cut the asparagus into bite size (about an inch long) pieces; and hold in a bowl
  • Zest the lemon
  • In ~20 minutes the risotto will thicken and become increasingly “saucy” as the starch is released.
  • When the rice is “al dente” (just tender), add the lemon zest, the cut asparagus, and the butter. Stir to combine, and to melt the butter.
  • Add the mascarpone & parmesan cheeses, and again stir to combine
  • Taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed
  • Serve up the risotto in a pasta bowl.  If you’d like you can reserve the asparagus tips, and garnish the top of the risotto
  • In the video, I also drizzle a bit of Meyer Lemon olive oil over the top for that final hint of lemon, and the grassiness of good olive oil.  You can use regular extra virgin olive oil, or omit if you’d like

Hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you make it soon.  It’s a great as a starter or as main course.  Leave me a comment and let me know how it goes.