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Asparagus risotto

Updated: Wed, 10 April, 2024

Asparagus risotto with frico, Parmesan crisps, is insanely flavoursome and tasty, which pays off for the tedium of stirring and stirring.

asparagus risotto

Risotto is about stirring

Making a good risotto is tricky: the proportion of liquid to rice, when to add on the add-ons, how to score the precise result between tough grains and a slop bucket, whether to use a wooden spoon or a whisk in the absence of the magical girariso and how much butter it REALLY needs.

There are recipes around for oven baked risottos, all-in-at-once risottos, boil the rice like pasta risottos but frankly, they are not the genuine article. Obviously, I’ve not tested all those recipes but my gut feeling and my half-Italian spouse tell me they are not autentico.

So if I embark upon a Milanese or a primavera, it means stirring, stirring and stirring.

stirring risotto

My goodness, is it boring!

It must be the most boring dish in the whole wide world, some elaborate cheffy sauces aside. Stir, stir, slop, slop, ladle. And again. And again for at least 25 minutes since I don’t believe a good result may be achieved sooner, unless with a boil-in-the-bag instead of Carnaroli.

It’s amazing how long that feels when all you do is go round and round the pan. You can’t even multitask for fear of missing the next ladle moment. You’re just stuck there over the hob for almost half an hour.

I admit, the result justifies the effort. A good risotto, including the one below which is a variety of primavera, is molto rewarding.

But after cooking one I usually really fancy watching some paint dry for entertainment.

asparagus risotto with parmesan crisps

How to prepare asparagus

The flavour is the best thing about it so make sure you get its every single molecule out of asparagus. In order to do that reserve the ends that you’ve either snapped off or cut off, depending on the asparagus school you represent.

When cooking your homemade stock or heating up shop-bought, even from a stock cube, add the spear ends and let them simmer in the liquid. It will make all the difference.

The rest of the spears need to be sliced, except the very tips which will be added at the end, so keep them separate.


What is soffritto?

Risotto is all about stirring as I succinctly explained earlier. The stock should be kept on a simmer at all time, and the start to the dish is soffritto.

The classic Italian mix of finely diced vegetables that is the base for all kinds of sauces, is carrot, celery and onion.

I’m not being orthodox in my recipe but I don’t want orange bits in my green risotto, and celery is just wasteful: buying a whole bunch just to use one rib and the rest languishes in the fridge forever.

Plus, one sweet onion and a little garlic is perfectly sufficient: not detracting from the asparagus flavour while coating and helping to cook the rice.

fresh asparagus risotto

How to start off cooking risotto?

Butter and olive oil is my choice for risotto, for the flavour. Soffritto, in this case just onion and garlic, needs to be cooked gently until softened but not coloured.

Rice - Carnaroli or Arborio, don’t stint on that – goes in then and this is when stirring starts. Cook the rice until it’s hot enough to start hissing viciously in the pan which is when we hit it with a small glass of wine or vermouth. It will go ‘whooosh!’ impressively and boil off in seconds.

And now is when the tedious but necessary stirring begins in all seriousness.

soffritto and rice

When to add asparagus?

The stock should be added by a ladleful, stirring the rice in between additions and waiting until the previous one is absorbed.

Risotto usually requires about four times the volume of rice to liquid. After about twenty minutes of stirring and ladling, when more than half of the stock is gone and the rice has swollen up considerably, the chopped asparagus may go in.

A couple of ladlefuls later it’s time to taste the rice, as obviously vegetables contain a bit of water too so not all the stock may need to be used up. The rice should be almost tender, with a tiny bite at the centre which will soften off the hob.

adding asparagus to risotto

How to finish asparagus risotto?

At this point the essential risotto ingredients go in: butter and grated Parmesan.

Beat them in with your wooden spoon until absorbed. Seasoning should be checked, with black pepper ground in and salt to taste.

Finely chopped herbs, grated lemon zest and the reserved asparagus tips will finish the work, but make sure you let the risotto rest, covered, at least five minutes before serving.

adding parmesan and butter

Parmesan crisps

These are by all means optional… seriously? Who am I kidding? Cheesy crisps are never knowingly refused, especially as they are so easy to make, with actually the risotto optional, ha ha.

Cheesy crisps are called frico in Italy and they are simply mounds of grated cheese, Parmesan or another hard cheese baked on a sheet of parchment. Dangerously moreish!

making parmesan frico

More risotto recipes

Mushroom risotto made with dried, rehydrated porcini and masses of Parmesan and butter is a royal feast. I love it just with a green salad.

Black rice risotto cooked Italian style, with poached pear quarters and gobbets of blue cheese, is the best way to enjoy the black or purple, ‘forbidden’ rice variety.

Spelt risotto with pearled spelt grain and dried porcini mushrooms is a gorgeous vegetarian dish: wholesome, flavoursome and effortless.

More asparagus recipes

Fresh green asparagus cooked gently in butter, served with some shavings of Parmesan, make a delicious spring treat. To snap or not to snap the ends, make sure you cook them quickly and get them as local and fresh as possible.

Spicy stir fried asparagus, cooked in a wok with chillies, ginger and garlic, is a great starter or a side dish bursting with Asian flavours.

Scallops and asparagus stir fry. Use good value frozen queen scallops for this dish, they will come into their own anyway against the background of perfectly cooked aubergines and asparagus.

green risotto with asparagus

Asparagus risotto

Servings: 2-4Time: 1 hour


  • For the Parmesan crisps:
  • 60g (23 cup) grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • For the risotto:
  • a bunch of asparagus (8-9 spears)
  • 1litre (a quart) vegetable stock
  • 12 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter plus 50g (3 tbsp) to add at the end
  • 200g (1 cup) Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1 small glass of white wine or vermouth
  • zest grated from 12 lemon
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • 50g (12 cup) grated Parmesan
  • salt and black pepper


1. To make the frico, Parmesan crisps, mix the thyme with the grated Parmesan.

2. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Line a baking tray with parchment.

3. Make 5 or 6 mounds of the Parmesan mix on the parchment, well-spaced apart, and press them down gently to flatten. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden. Cool on the parchment until set, then remove onto paper towels.

4. Wash the asparagus and break off the woody ends but reserve them. Chop the spears except the tips, set those aside.

5. Make up the stock or heat up ready made in a pan until boiling. Add the woody ends of the asparagus and let the stock simmer gently next to your risotto pan – that’s to get the maximum flavour from the asparagus.

6. Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic.

7. Melt the 1 tbsp of butter with the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and sweat gently until slightly translucent, over medium heat.

8. Add the rice and start stirring with a wooden risotto spoon, a dough whisk or an ordinary wooden spoon.

9. When the rise starts hissing (about 3 minutes) and it’s hot, add the wine. Simmer, stirring until absorbed. Now start adding the stock, by a ladleful, stirring the rice in between additions. Only add the next ladle when the previous one has been absorbed but don’t let the rice get too dry.

10. After 20 minutes (and about two thirds of the stock) the rice should swell considerably. Add the chopped asparagus stems and keep stirring.

11. After another 5 minutes and a couple more ladles of stock taste the rice: it should be almost tender enough to eat but with quite a bite. You might not need to add in all the stock.

12. Take the pan off the heat, add the 50g of butter and the Parmesan and beat in well. It will look like it’s turning sloppy but don’t worry, it will keep good texture. Stir in half the lemon zest, half the dill and taste for seasoning: it will certainly need some black pepper. Add the asparagus tips to the pan, cover with a lid and let it rest for a few minutes.

13. Spoon the risotto into the serving plates or bowls, sprinkle with extra lemon zest and dill and serve with the Parmesan crisps on the side.

Originally published: Thu, 11 May, 2017

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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