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Early Spring Risotto

Early Spring Asparagus with Fennel, Asparagus, and Fava Beans

This is a perfect way to celebrate Springtime.  Make it when asparagus and fava beans start to appear at the market.  I like to serve it with a crisp dry white wine from Sonoma Valley, like Gunlach Bundschu’s Gewertztraminer or Spann Vineyard’s Chard-Viognier.

Serves 4-6

2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 # Asparagus, tips only
Fava beans, peeled
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
Lemon, zest of
1 cup white wine
8 cups vegetable broth
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: Use one or both, Basil and Parsley thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Salt and Pepper to taste

The Preparation:
Cut the asparagus on the diagonal, leaving only the tips and set aside.  (Save the rest of the asparagus for stir-fry or frittata.)   Peel the fava bean’s thick sheath or outer peel away, and then par-boil for 2 minutes and it will be easier to peel the tight skin.  After peeling, sauté the favas in a little garlic for just a minute or two, just until they brighten up in color.   Put in a cuisinart bowl, pulse and set aside.  Finely chop the onions and fennel.  Zest the lemon into a bowl, set aside.  Thinly slice the fresh herbs and set aside.

Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.   (You will need this nearby while cooking the dish, adding as you go until it is incorporated and the risotto is creamy in texture.)

The Cooking:
Heat a pan that is atleast 2" deep to medium, add the olive oil, salt and pepper, then, add the onions and fennel, sauté until softened, 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the rice and stir until the rice is slightly cooked, about 3 minutes.   Add the white wine and simmer for a few minutes before adding a ladleful of broth.  Stir for 3 to 4 minutes until the broth is absorbed or incorporated.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to add the broth a ladleful at a time, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding the next.  Add the asparagus when the risotto still has about 10 minutes to cook. 

Stir in the remaining broth until it is incorporated and the kernels are al dente at the center and creamy on the outside, 20-25 minutes.  Stir in the parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chopped basil or parsley and heat through, about 2 minutes.  The risotto should be creamy and loose, but not runny.  It should not be clumpy, if so, add a bit more liquid and incorporate until it is smooth.  Finally, add the pureed fava and garlic mixture until completely melded together and risotto starts to turn a little green.   Add some Parmesan cheese at the stove, then remove from the heat and transfer to a warmed serving dish.  Serve more Parmesan Reggiano at the table for your guests.  Bon Appetito!

Recipe by
Tricia O'Brien