Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Mascarpone
This is a basic recipe for risotto which can be flavored with any number of ingredient combinations. The method for starting and cooking the risotto works whether you want to add sautéed mushrooms, italian sausage, peas, butternut squash…whatever is in season. The thin tender asparagus is starting to show up in the market now. This is a great way to prepare it. Mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, gives this risotto a creamy and rich finish. I used chicken broth, but you could easily substitute vegetable broth or mushroom broth to make it vegetarian. Serves 6
- 5-6 C. chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 lemon
- 3 T. olive oil
- 2 1/2 C. arborio rice
- 1 C. diced onion
- 1 C. white wine
- 2 C. asparagus, cut into small bite sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 C. mascarpone
- zest of 1 lemon
- parmesan cheese, optional
Heat the broth in a saucepan over medium heat. Cut the lemon and squeeze the juice into the broth, toss in the juiced lemon halves. Allow the broth to come to a simmer and then keep it at a low simmer while you prepare the rice.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to medium. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Allow the rice to toast in the oil and begin to turn golden brown.
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes more, without allowing the onion to brown. Add the wine and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Add 3/4 C. hot broth to the rice and stir. Stir every few moments and add another 3/4 C. liquid as soon as the first cup has been absorbed. Continue to stir and add more broth each time the liquid is absorbed.
Over about 20 minutes of stirring and adding liquid you should use about 5-6 cups of broth. Your risotto is done when the rice is cooked through without being mushy. Add the mascarpone just before serving. This is the basic risotto recipe. To add other ingredients you can add them a few minutes before cooking time is up- the asparagus took about 6 minutes to cook in the risotto.
Or you can cook other ingredients separately and add them at the last minute. For quick cooking veggies like peas, add them a few minutes before cooking time is up. For longer cooking veggies like squash add them early in the cooking process or roast in the oven separately. Risotto loves cheese. Add your favorite to top it off. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Mine is garnished with lemon zest and parmesan. The first time I ate risotto was about 15 years ago at Barbara Alexander’s house. Hers had bites of spicy Italian sausage in it. It was so good I had to learn how to make it. Her advice: “Baby you gotta stir that risotto. You can’t stop stirring.”