Use ALL of the Asparagus for Asparagus Risotto

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summary: asparagus risotto recipe without added cream, butter or cheese; how to use the stalks for added flavour; garnishing with chives – including the flowers; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

barley It’s asparagus season!! It’s asparagus season!! I love asparagus season!

A while back, when we discovered the wonders of orzotto, I imagined that it was

So fabulous that we may not buy more arborio rice when it runs out. We’ll get barley instead.

-me, news flash: barley is good!!

Well. Of course, we got more arborio rice. We had to.

Why? Because T saw someone on the food network making asparagus risotto. The really exciting thing about it (aside from the fact that it sounded delicious) was that it called for using up the stalks of the asparagus too. No waste!! I love that. Our compost heap already gets plenty of vegetable leavings; it doesn’t have to have asparagus ends in it too.

Not to mention that there will be more asparagus for us in this brief window of asparagus season. I love that even more.

Naturally, T consulted the internet to see what other people did. Most of the asparagus risotto recipes there called for adding cream and/or butter and/or cheese and/or white wine. We decided to forgo these ingredients and make the risotto with just chicken stock because a.) one of us is on a boring “no fat allowed” diet, b.) we wanted to make sure that the asparagus flavour didn’t get lost and c.) we didn’t have any white wine in the house. (He added a tiny bit of sherry in place of the wine.)

Trim tough ends from asparagus; discard. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Cut stalks into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Place 2/3 of stalk pieces, 1 cup broth and 1 cup water in blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

– Asparagus risotto recipe, Bon Appétit, March 2002

asparagus This is the part that really thrilled us. The only part that gave us pause was to par-cook the stalks. We were quite concerned about getting an over-stewed asparagus taste. Ewwww, there’s really nothing more unpleasant, is there?

This isn’t the first time that we’d heard of using the normally discarded asparagus stalks. A couple of years ago, we’d read a recipe in “At Home in Provence” by Patricia Wells that the stalks could be used to make asparagus soup. We tried it at the time – I meant to blog about it; I really did – but we didn’t love the results. The soup ended up tasting just a little too, well – asparagussy. (I should look through our photos to see if we took any pictures. As I recall, it didn’t look bad….)

chives BUT the idea of pureeing UNcooked asparagus and adding that to the risotto was quite appealing. So that is exactly what T did. The puree added the lightest hint of spring green colour to the risotto. A few of the stalks didn’t get completely pureed but were lovely, slightly crisp and tender and tasted remarkably of delicate onion.

The second time we made asparagus risotto, we didn’t have any chive flowers left so we garnished with a light grating of pecorino cheese. This was good too… the asparagus didn’t get lost.

Next time we’re thinking a touch of lemon zest might be a nice addition.

Asparagus Risotto

based on our recipe for Mushroom Risotto

Note that measurements will vary.

  • good shot of asparagus
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 4 c chicken stock, more or less
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly (optional)
  • splash of dry sherry
  • seasalt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh chives, for garnish
  1. Wash the asparagus well. Trim it. Separate the stalk ends from spears. Reserve what is usually discarded! Parboil the spears until al dente and drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Put the spears into ice-water to arrest the cooking. Set the spears and cooking liquid aside in separate containers.
  2. Put the UNcooked stalk ends into a blender (we use our magic bullet) with a little water and whir until puréed.
  3. Gently rinse arborio rice in cold water and drain.
  4. Heat chicken stock and leave on a very low simmer.
  5. Fry onions and garlic (if using) in olive oil til they are translucent.
  6. Set the burner to medium low heat and using a wooden spoon, stir rinsed arborio rice into the onion mixture, making sure that all the rice kernels get covered in oil.
  7. Add the asparagus cooking liquid and a splash of sherry. Stir until the liquid has almost become encorporated into the rice.
  8. Gradually stir in stock, adding a little at a time until the rice is the consistancy you like. Make sure the rice always stays quite soupy as it tends to firm up after serving. The amount of stock will vary depending on the weather and humidity. If you run out of stock, add some water or a little white wine. If you don’t have white wine, more dry sherry works just as well. Many recipe books say to stir constantly, but it’s okay to leave the rice to bubble very gently and stir from time to time.
  9. When the rice is the correct consistency, stir in the asparagus ends purée.
  10. Just before serving, gently stir in most of the asparagus spears, leaving some aside for garnish. (OR leave all of them aside and use all as a garnish.)
  11. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  12. chivesGarnish with chopped fresh chives. Chive flower blossoms are equally tasty. Just make sure to cut the blossoms into florets. Otherwise, their flavour is too strong. (Please read more about chives)

N.B. Cheese is NOT necessary with asparagus risotto. (But it turns out that it is not a bad thing to use a little grated pecorino as a garnish, as we did the second time we had asparagus risotto.)

More recipes:

We served the risotto with oven roasted chicken. T deglazed the chicken pan with a little sherry and drizzled it over the risotto as an added bonus.

Did I mention that asparagus risotto is wonderful? Really wonderful? So wonderful that the small amount that is left-over is the perfect thing to have for dessert instead of ice cream that someone says is the best ice cream ever made?

Oh, yes, and before I forget, we really should try making this with barley rather than rice. Because I bet that asparagus orzotto is equally brilliant.

lilac Ontario Asparagus = Lilacs

Which is more thrilling? Asparagus being in season, or lilacs in bloom beneath the open screened window? This furry black creature has NO difficulty deciding… He has spent many of his waking hours (when he isn’t careening up and down the stairs) languishing on this window sill.





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2 responses to “Use ALL of the Asparagus for Asparagus Risotto

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    I’m not sure when I got the idea that cutting or breaking off the tough ends of asparagus just sounded wrong in my book. At some point I threw caution to the wind and decided if they were tough then they just needed to be cooked more or cut more or whatever to make them more tender and to heck with the police ;-) know what I mean.
    I enjoy and cook with cream and butter but plenty of times it does cover things up which can be a good thing but then why cover up asparagus.
    You make all this sound glorious.

    I too normally cook with butter and cream. Being disallowed right now is a real eye opener – or rather – taste-bud opener. We’re discovering what things stand on their own. Having said that, I can’t wait til we’re allowed to have butter again. Asparagus just shrieks out for Hollandaise Sauce, don’t you think? :-) -Elizabeth

  2. Katie

    I never add cream to my risotto (except for the veal and cream risotto) and rarely use butter. Just not needed and I’d like to slap all of those TV chefs who say you have to.
    I also never rinse the rice…. Why do you do that? It’s always a tough choice to decide between Arborio and barley…. Happy Asparagus Season


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