The inspiration for this lovely risotto was a handful of freshly picked asparagus from the garden. My asparagus has been doing very well this year and, therefore, I thought it needed to be the star in this week's recipe. Risotto's creamy goodness can only be enhanced by adding leeks, peas, pancetta and a little lemon for brightness. Add a crisp salad and risotto makes an excellent mid-week dinner.
Spring Risotto - Serves 4
1 cup of arborio rice
2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
2 leeks, split and thinly sliced (rinse well and soak in cold water to clean after sliced, then dry)
1/4 cup peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup of parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Heat broth and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a saucepan until simmering (I add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to broth if broth is unsalted) then add sliced asparagus, cook 3 minutes and remove with a strainer to a bowl of ice water - when cooled remove asparagus from water, dry and set aside. Bring broth down to simmer. In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, add olive oil, and cook pancetta until crisp, add butter and leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes on low heat, watch carefully so that they don't burn. They will be soft and translucent when done. Raise heat to medium low and add rice. Stir to coat the rice. Add 1/4 cup of wine and stir with a spatula until absorbed. Now the work begins. Add a ladle of simmering broth to rice and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. You may have to lower heat a little. Continue adding broth a ladle at time and stir. Risotto takes about 20 minutes and a watchful eye. You know it is done when it doesn't absorb the broth and is a creamy consistency. You may have some broth left over. Shut heat off and fold in cooked asparagus, peas, and parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.