Asparagus risotto with pistachios is a fine risotto recipe for a lovely main course option. Asparagus risotto is an Italian classic; here we are adding toasted salted pistachios for a lovely flavour combination that will take you straight on a trip to Italy.
Risotto is one of the big names in Italian cuisine. Sure pizza and pasta are the first to come to mind, but risotto follows close. Although being spread throughout Italy, risotto is mostly prominent in northern Italy. The Po valley plains in the north of the country host vast rice crops. Rice varieties such as Arborio and Carnaroli are endemic, and among the finest types for risotto making.
Asparagus risotto is a big classic of Italian cuisine. Aromatic asparagus wonderfully marries with parmesan and white wine to create a delicate risotto flavour. In this recipe we are enhancing it with pistachio, a wonderful ingredient typical in the Mediterranean region. This asparagus risotto with pistachios has a unique flavour that will surely make it the star of your dinner together with a nice glass of white wine.
A classic from northern Italy
As a born and bred northener, I’m one of those Italians that deeply adore risotto. It’s in my heritage, as much as other exquisitely northern Italian delicacies such as polenta concia or panna cotta. Or risotto alla milanese! Asparagus risotto is among my favourites. It is that kind of recipe that looks sophisticated enough without being too advanced. Perfect for entertaining, but also for a mid-week dinner.
The key to good risotto is the use of the right type of rice and the right amout of patience. Unlike pasta, that cooks in abundant water, rice is meant to slowly absorb its liquid – stock in this case. What is important is that said stock is added in batches. This ensures getting the perfect texture. While it may require a little bit more attention than a simple pasta, risotto is always worth the effort. And anyway, most of the cooking time is passive, as you just need to check it from time to time and add the next batch of broth.
Asparagus pistachio risotto ingredients
- Risotto rice (like Arborio or Carnaroli)
- Asparagus stalks, trimmed
- Dry white wine (Chardonnay is a good option, but my choice is Arneis)
- Vegetable stock cube
- Toasted salted pistachios, shelled
- Cooking cream (15% fat)
- Olive oil
- Grated parmesan (I like to use Grana Padano)
Ingredient quantities are listed in the recipe card at the end of this post. An overview of the recipe method follows.
How to make asparagus risotto with pistachios
- Set 1,5 liter of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and the asparagus stalks. Cook until tender -about 8-10 minutes. Lift the cooked asparagus off the water and place aside to let cool. Dissolve a stock cube in the asparagus cooking water. Keep the asparagus broth on the stove on low heat.
- Warm the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-duty skillet. Finely mince the shallot and add it to the pan. Sauté on medium heat 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the rice and toast on medium heat until translucent, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high and pour in the white wine. Stir continuously to prevent it from sticking until the wine evaporates.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the stock so that it covers the rice, about a couple of ladles. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. When absorbed, add a couple ladlefuls stock just enough to cover the rice and let simmer again until absorbed. Keep adding the stock in batches until the rice is cooked through. Depending on the type of rice used, you may not need to add all of the stock in the end.
- In the meantime, cut the asparagus into half-centimetre thick slices. Separate the asparagus heads together with 1/3 of the rest of the chopped stalks. Combine the remaining 2/3 of the chopped asparagus with the cream and shelled pistachios and blend.
- After the last addition of stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the creamy asparagus purée as well as the grated parmesan. Lastly, stir in the chopped asparagus and the heads you had set aside. Serve immediately and top with extra grated parmesan and some crushed pistachios for decoration.
Can I make asparagus risotto in advance?
Risotto tastes its absolute best when freshly prepared. Perfectly cooked rice grains are still rather firm and contrast with the sauce. While good risotto shouldn’t bee soupy, it is meant not to be completely dry either. You know you nailed your risotto texture when you can either eat it with a spoon or a fork. Thick enough not to leak through a fork, but still moist enough to easily eat with a spoon.
The longer it sits, the more the rice will continue to absorb moisture. The effect is softer rice grains and a thicker, drier overall consistency. While this does not in any way affect the flavour, you can tell when a risotto has been made a long time in advance. Which is fine if I’m taking leftovers to work in my lunch box the following day, but not so spectacular if I’m offering risotto while entertaining. So how can we serve our guests freshly-made risotto without disappearing for 45 minutes into the kitchen?
The secret is smart prepping
Make all the steps that can be made in advance before, then just proceed with the final cooking while your guests are enjoying a starter. And you should as well, during the passive cooking time, remember?
- Cook the asparagus stalks in advance and have the asparagus stock ready in a pot.
- Chop the asparagus and reserve the heads and some slices in a bowl. Blend the rest with the cream and pistachios and keep in another bowl.
- Measure out the rice and have the right quantity in a bowl.
- Grate the parmesan and have that in another bowl.
- Set aside the wine you need for cooking and take the rest of the bottle to the table!
- Mince the shallot and sauté until soft. Keep it in the pot you will be using later.
This is cutting about half of the preparation time. So when your guests arrive, you can warm up the stock and the sautéed onion, toast the rice, add the wine and evaporate it – this will take less than 10 minutes. Then you just add the stock and let the rice simmer. Go back to the table and enjoy a cocktail or some finger food. Just return to your risotto every 3-4 minutes to stir and add the next batch of stock. This will take 15-20 minutes. Then just stir in the asparagus purée and the grated parmesan that you have prepared in advance. Your perfect asparagus risotto with pistachios is ready to shine!
Do you like asparagus risotto? Ever tried making it with pistachios? Let me know in the comments!
Pistachio asparagus risotto
Classic Italian asparagus risotto with toasted salted pistachios for a fine flavour and a delightful main course.
- 350 g asparagus fresh stalks, green
- 350 g risotto rice
- 150 ml white wine dry
- 1 shallot
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 80 ml cream 15% fat
- 50 g pistachios toasted, salted, shelled
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 50 g parmesan grated
Set 1,5 liter of water on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Add 1 tsp salt and the asparagus stalks. Cook until tender - 8-10 minutes. Remove cooked asparagus from the water and let cool. Dissolve a stock cube in the asparagus cooking water. Keep the asparagus broth on the stove on low heat.
Finely mince the shallot. Warm the olive oil in a heavy-duty pot and add the shallot. Sauté on medium heat 4-5 minutes. Add the rice and toast on medium heat until translucent, 3 minutes. Set the heat to high and pour in the white wine. Stir to distribute until the wine evaporates.
Lower the heat to medium and add enough stock to cover the rice. Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. When absorbed, add a couple ladlefuls stock, again enough to cover the rice and let simmer until absorbed. Keep adding the stock in batches until the rice is cooked through.
In the meantime, chop the asparagus into half-centimetre slices. Separate the asparagus heads together with 1/3 of the rest of the chopped stalks. Combine the remaining 2/3 of the chopped asparagus with the cream and shelled pistachios and blend.
After the last addition of stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the asparagus purée and the grated parmesan. Lastly, add the chopped asparagus and heads you had set aside. Serve immediately and top with extra grated parmesan and some crushed pistachios for decoration.
- Depending on the type of rice used, you may not need to add all of the stock in the end.
- The nutrition information provided is just an estimate based on a suggested serving size.
Originally published October 2017, last updated February 2021.