Asparagus and Lemon Risotto
Zesty Asparagus Risotto with leeks and basil – airy and velvety with vivid colour and rich flavour, ideal for springtime! A delightful vegetarian dish, or a splendid foundation for fish, seafood, or mushrooms. Serves 2-3 as a main course, or 4-5 as a side dish.
Prep Time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 30 mins
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 large leek (or white onion, diced)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, rough chopped
- 200 grams arborio rice
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 850 – 1000 mL hot vegetable broth
- Large handful of basil leaves (or sub part Parsley)
- 1 lemon, zest and some juice to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- To garnish: lemon zest, torn basil leaves, pecorino cheese, optional toasted pine nuts, chilli flakes, a drizzle of olive oil.
Bring a small pot of water to boil on the stove to blanch asparagus.
Prep the asparagus: Break the ends off the asparagus and discard. Cut the pretty tips off (about 4cm) and set them aside. Cut the remaining asparagus into 2.5cm pieces. Take 1 ½ cups and set aside (to blanch and blend into a creamy asparagus sauce) which we will stir into the risotto at the end to give it it’s beautiful vibrant colour and creamy texture. Add any remaining cut asparagus to the tips and keep these set aside. So you’ll have two piles of asparagus, 1½ cups of the cut stalks and one with the tips and any remaining stalks.
Blanch & Blend: In the small pot of boiling water, blanch the 1½ cups of asparagus (without the tips), until tender and vibrant, about 5 minutes depending on size. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Blend the blanched asparagus with the 1 cup cooking liquid, 2 tablespoons oil and the basil leaves until silky smooth, in a blender. Set this aside to add to the risotto at the end.
Start Risotto: Thinly slice leeks into half-moons, and rinsing away any dirt, strain. (Rinsing will also help soften them.) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and saute until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add arborio rice and stir to coat, one minute. Deglaze with white wine and cook the wine off. Add 1 cup hot vegetable broth, scraping up any browned bits, bring to a gentle simmer, over med-low heat stirring occasionally, letting the rice absorb the all the broth.
Continue adding the hot broth 1 cup at a time, letting the rice absorb it slowly, each time, stirring often. ***At the same time that you add the last cup of broth, add the pile of asparagus with the tips, letting them cook in the risotto 3 minutes or so. At this point, rice should be creamy yet slightly al dente.
Combine: Stir in blended asparagus-basil “sauce”, add the salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and taste. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste. (Pecorino will add more depth and flavour here.) Heat gently over low heat letting it thicken a bit if you like, but taking care not to cook too long here, or you’ll lose the vibrant colour.
Divide among bowls, garnish with pecorino cheese, torn basil leaves, lemon zest, chilli flakes and a drizzle of olive oil.
Top with a piece of roasted fish, BBQ king prawn, grilled chicken or mushrooms if you like and enjoy with a glass of Holm Oak Riesling.