Creamy, Buttery Asparagus Risotto

  • Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium

‘…Creamy, buttery risotto and with dads stock and asparagus, I can eat bowl after bowl…’

Leo Williamson
'Risotto is my favourite dish, ever.'

What you need

500g asparagus

400g Vialone Nano rice

1 litre chicken stock – or vegetable stock (v)

1 large onion chopped finely

1 stick of celery chopped very finely

50g butter + extra for asparagus tips

125ml white wine

Small handful grated Parmesan cheese

25g extra butter – cold



Dad's Recipe Tales

Irresistible risotto?

Lovely risotto… the quintessential Italian dish. We all admire and adore our favourite TV chefs eulogising over their risottos, we are infected by their enthusiasm and impressed by their tenacious and skillful presentations. We enjoy learning about the integrity of the dish and celebrate its humble origins… But let’s face it, when we are in an Italian restaurant, how many of us pass over the risotto in favour of the grilled lamb chops?

Despite its gastronomic legacy, the poor risotto is often seen as a bland and boring choice. But give risotto a chance. Cooked well, it is a fine dish and very satisfying.

The one I cooked tonight was delicious – an excellent way to savour the last asparagus of the season. We took our risottos outside; a perfect al fresco meal – even better with some crusty bread and a glass of wine. Of course Mrs WDC is Italian. So risotto is always on the menu – it is a good mid-week supper, easy on the body and soul – and the purse.

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Wash the asparagus and break off the woody base: hold the base in the right hand and the top in the other hand and gently bend. The spear will break leaving the inedible woody part in the right hand. Put the woody stalks into a sauce pan. If the asparagus does not look tough – do not bother peeling – otherwise peel with a vegetable peeler and put the peelings in with the bases. Chop off the tip of the spears for a garnish – the length should be about 5cm-6cm. Slice the remaining parts of the spears diagonally into pieces about 2cm – 3cm long.
  2. I enhance the stock with the asparagus spear bases. Try to cook the tips without losing any flavour. To do this, put the stock into the pan with the asparagus bases. Add a bay leaf. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Now pour some of the stock into a smaller sauce pan and cook the tips of the spears. Watch these like a hawk. When they are nearly tender strain them immediately, ensuring the stock goes back into the main stock pan. Scatter the tips on a large plate to cool quickly.
  3. Using a sturdy thick-bottomed pan or cast iron pan, cook the celery and onion in the butter (50g) on a low to medium heat until transparent. This will take 10 minutes or so.
  4. Turn up the heat to medium and add the rice – cook the rice stirring all the time for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine (or extra stock) and let it reduce until it is all evaporated. Add a ladle of strained hot stock.
  6. Stir the rice until the stock has all but evaporated. Tedious, I know. The stirring releases the starch from the rice and gives it its creamy consistency. So put the radio on… find a high stool… and keep stirring! The idea is to let each ladleful of stock become absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes.
  7. After one or two ladlefuls of stock or about 8 minutes – add the diagonally cut sections of asparagus to the rice.
  8. Put the kettle on and top up the stock pan as needed (stock is precious and expensive – I find that a dilution of about one third water to stock is very acceptable). Keep the routine of stock and stirring going until the rice becomes tender. To test, taste a grain – if it has a slight crunch in the centre it is ready for finishing. Ensure there is plenty of moisture in the rice. The texture should be creamy – not stiff – not runny. There will be a resting period and this will tend to stiffen the mixture, so it is safe to make it a little wetter.
  9. Risotto is best served after finishing with only a few moments for the rice to rest. So plan taking to the table just as it is ready. This requires some good timing. to finish the risotto add the cold butter and the Parmesan (this is the ‘mantacatura’ – for purists…). Check the seasoning and add a little more stock if needed. Put the lid on the pan and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, warm the tips in a frying pan with a little butter and stock.
  10. Stir the risotto one last time, make any further adjustments to seasoning (a squeeze of lemon may help lift the flavour – especially if wine has not been used). Serve onto each plate and add the tips as a garnish – extra Parmesan can be added at the table.

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