I recently had some friends over for dinner and decided to treat them to risotto. Pasta and pizza, especially when home-made by an authentic Italian cook, are always a good option, and no guest will ever frown at this choice of menu. But there’s so much more to Italian cooking than pizza and pasta. Rice is, in fact, a very popular food in the north, together with polenta (cornmeal). Coming from northern Italy myself, I consider risotto one of the finest expressions of northern Italian cuisine.
Once I decided it was going to be risotto, I also had to pick a flavour. Asparagus risotto was a new challenge for me, as I had never cooked it before, so I picked that. I had eaten asparagus risotto before, and was familiar with it, but I had never tried my skills at it before. To make it more interesting, I decided to add another ingredient and my choice ended up being pistachio. Mostly, I wanted something that was also green, to keep the same tone of the dish. And I wanted a nut. I had in mind pesto, where you always want a nut for the cremy texture it has when blended. So pistachio it was. Here’s my asparagus pistachio risotto recipe.
Asparagus pistachio risotto:
- 200 g asparagus
- 350 g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
- 100 ml white wine (I used Arneis)
- 1 shallot
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- a handful of unsalted pistachios, plus a couple more for decoration
- 50 ml cream
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
The first thing to take care of is the asparagus. Set 1,5 liter of water in a pot and bring to a boil. When it boils, add 1 tsp salt and the asparagus stalks. Boil until tender (about 8-10 minutes). Remove the asparagus from the water, but do not drain the water. Leave the asparagus to cool. Dissolve a vegetable stock in the asparagus boiling water. This asparagus flavoured stock will be used in the risotto.
Finely mince the shallot and set aside. Take the asparagus stalks, cut all the tender tips and set them aside, those will be used for decoration at the end. Cut the rest of the stalks in small, 1-mm thick, rounds. In a non-stick pan warm up the olive oil and sauté the minced shallot. When the onion has softened, add half of the asparagus and sauté on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and toast it always keeping the heat on medium and stirring continuously. After about 3 minutes, turn the heat to medium-high and pour the white wine in one go. Stir to distribute the wine all around and keep cooking on high heat until it evaporates. When the wine has evaporated, lower the heat to medium again and add the stock. I generally don’t add all the stock in one go, but pour just enough to cover the rice, then leave to simmer until it has been absorbed. Then I proceed adding more, again until all the rice is covered. Continue until the rice has absorbed all the stock, letting it simmer and stirring from time to time.
In the meantime, add the remaining half of the asparagus, the shelled pistachios and the cream to a tall container and blend until smooth. After the last addition of stock, just before it has entirely absorbed, add the creamy asparagus and pistachio blend. Remove from the heat and fold in the cream. Lastly, add the stalk tips. Serve the risotto with an extra sprinkle of ground pistachio and grated Parmigiano to taste.
The inspiration to serve my asparagus pistachio risotto in these ceramic pots came from the latest wedding reception we attended in Italy (click here to see some photos of the bride and groom). Risotto was one of the main dishes at the reception dinner and every guest received it served in one such pot. I loved the idea, and copied it, the only difference being that my pots were all different colours. Not as elegant as at the wedding dinner, but this definitely made it a very colourful dining experience!
Hungry for more risotto? How about this red wine risotto recipe?