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Playing The Ultimate Springtime Risotto


  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 heavy pinch saffron, about 30 threads
  • 1 bundle of asparagus spears larger stalks are fine
  • A bundle or few handfuls of ramps (wild leeks) or 1 bunch spring onions (4 to 5) or 2 small leeks or 1 bunch of scallions
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 to 4 cloves spring garlic, peeled and thinly sliced or 2 large cloves purple garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup fresh green peas, shelled, optional (I add them in when they are in season.)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • A couple of handfuls freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Serves: 4


Place stock plus 2 cups water in a pot with the saffron. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to medium-low.

Trim tough ends of stalks away from asparagus and thinly slice on an angle.

Wash ramps or spring onions and trim up. Finely chop the whites of ramps or onions. Cut ramp tops into 1-inch pieces or thinly slice spring onions or scallion greens on an angle and reserve.

In a round-bottomed pan, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add ramp or onion whites, garlic, salt and pepper, and stir 2-3 minutes. Add rice and stir a minute or 2 more; add wine and stir until absorbed into rice fully. Begin adding stock, a few ladlefuls at a time. With each addition of stock, stir the rice vigorously to build up the starch; do not add more liquid until most of the last addition has been absorbed. The rice will be al dente after 18 minutes. If you have stock left at this point, dont sweat it. The dish will take about 5 cups of liquid, more or less but never exactly the same amount twice. If you are using peas, stir into rice midway in preparation.

Begin preparing the asparagus in a separate skillet 2-3 minutes before the risotto is done cooking: Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, a turn of the pan, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and lightly brown, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and douse pan with lemon juice.

Finish risotto by stirring in butter, a couple of handfuls of cheese and half the asparagus. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls and top with remaining asparagus to garnish.