I can’t recall the first time I ate risotto.
I do however remember the first risotto I ever made at home. It was a Barefoot Contessa recipe called Spring Green Risotto, and we fell in love with dish, bursting with spring vegetables, cheese and rice.
Thanks to the lovely Ina Garten I fell in love with making risotto, and that has deepened over the years, especially after living in Milan- where it is a staple on every menu in the city.
As I gained confidence in making risotto and realized how easy it really is- (really! I promise) I started making different variations.
In Milan you will find the classic Risotto alla Milanese, decadent and scented with saffron. You will also find hundreds of variations based on the seasons and what is at the peak of harvest.
You can find risotto with seafood, roasted zucca (pumpkin), sausage or believe it or not, strawberries. (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!) Many traditional risotto recipes have just a few ingredients, like one cheese, and one meat or vegetable- in order to let the flavors shine through.
This Primavera recipe is not like that! It has quite a few vegetables in it, but it works really well with the creamy cheese, bitter greens and the acid of lemon juice.
Several of my personal favorites are the leek & castlemagno cheese risotto (Risotto con porri e castelmagno) at The Garage Trattoria, and the bresaola & fig risotto (Risotto con bresaola e fichi) at Ristorante Borgo Vione. We make it at home most often with roasted squash in the winter, fig & braesaola in the autumn, and with asparagus and peas in the spring.
Spring is FINALLY here- woo-hoo! I made my first risotto primavera of the year this week to celebrate. My version morphs each year, depending on what I want to try and what is in season. This week I went a little crazy and put asparagus, peas, & leeks and finished it off with a handful of bitter greens. I’m digging the addition of the greens, It was delicious.
A risotto worthy of the title PRIMAVERA!
- Unsalted butter, 3 T
- Leeks, 2- chopped
- Onion, 1 cup chopped
- Arborio or Carnaroli rice, 1.5 cups
- Dry white wine, 1 cup
- Low sodium vegetable stock, (heated) 4-5 cups
- Thin asparagus, 1 bunch-trimmed and cut into small pieces
- Fresh shelled peas (or frozen), 1.5 cups
- 2 lemons, zested (save the juice!)
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons
- Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, ½ cup
- Salt and coarsely ground pepper
- Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, 3 T., finely chopped
- *optional greens such as arugula or baby kale 1-2 large handfuls, chopped
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a wide shallow pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped leek and onion and saute until tender. (do not brown!)
- Add the rice, stirring for a minute or two to toast the rice and coat with the oil and butter.
- Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed.
- Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and adding more as the broth gets absorbed by the rice. ( I use a ladle and add a few ladlefuls at a time, repeating when the broth is absorbed)
- Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the peas for the last few minutes. *see tip below
- Continue cooking the rice and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm. (about 15-18 minutes)
- Stir in the asparagus, peas, lemon zest, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, parmigiano, greens and parsley. Add a dab of butter, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
Shortcut for asparagus & peas- add to the stock and cook a few minutes, remove to a bowl with slotted spoon)
What’s your favorite risotto recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
Buon Appetito & Happy Spring!
p.s. Grab the Printable dinner party menu for spring, with recipes & a handy shopping list >>