This risotto recipe uses just asparagus stock, so it’s great for vegetarians. Best results will be achieved when asparagus is in season and the flavour is at its best. Blending the asparagus gives this risotto a great colour and intensifies the flavour as it permeates the rice. Alternatively, you can substitute some of the water with chicken stock. I have also reserved the woody stems of asparagus from other meals and added this to the asparagus stock to increase the flavour.
First make some good asparagus stock. Wash the asparagus well and remove the woody ends (hold each spear at both ends and bend it gently, it will snap at its natural breaking point). Cut the very end tips off the asparagus and finely chop the remaining middle part of the asparagus, stopping if the stem gets too tough to cut. Divide the asparagus into three piles; the delicate tips, the finely chopped edible middle part and the remaining woody stem.
Pour 750ml of water into a small saucepan with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cook the woody stem in the water for about 10 minutes, pressing them with the back of a slotted spoon to release the asparagus flavour. Remove the asparagus with the spoon and throw away. Cook the asparagus tips for 2 minutes, drain and set aside to add later. Finally cook the chopped asparagus stems for 5-10 minutes and puree this precious stock in a blender or food processor. Measure this asparagus stock and top up with either more water or chicken stock so you have 750ml of liquid again. Up to this point, the risotto can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge.
Gently cook the onion in 75g of the butter, until transparent, making sure it doesn’t colour. If you’re using garlic and thyme, cook a few minutes more. Then add the rice and stir briefly, so the rice is coated in butter. Next add the vermouth and season with salt and pepper. When the vermouth has almost evaporated, start adding the asparagus stock, a little at a time, stirring all the time. You don’t want to swamp the rice, as it will over puff the rice, but you want enough liquid to cover all the rice so that the rice cooks evenly.
Taste the liquid for enough seasoning while the rice is still absorbing flavour and add more if necessary. One can never say exactly how much stock to use, as different types of risotto rice absorb varying degrees of liquid and the degree of heat evaporation varies. However, when you have one ladle left of stock, check the rice is just al dente, then add the reserved asparagus, the final asparagus stock and cook until the rice is a rich creamy texture with a slight bite in the middle. Add the basil at the last moment if using, the last of the butter and half the Parmesan. Leave the risotto in the pot for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavour to come through, and sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan when serving.
Like our asparagus recipe? Check out these delicious and healthy Italian recipes.
Copyright Sophie Braimbridge.