I have been making some variation of this risotto for years, changing the ingredients around by the season and to what I have on hand, sometimes adding shrimp, scallops or crab meat, sometimes with chicken stock, others with vegetable broth. White wine, peas, mushrooms, squash, there are so many possibilities. Looking at the list of ingredients and directions may seem daunting, but it really is fairly simple. You just need the time to dedicate and a good parking spot in front of your stove. The perfect recipe for a Sunday night.
This particular version of my risotto showcases some of the lovely ingredients in season right now, asparagus, fennel and chives. I thought about adding peas, but I didn’t want to over do it. I recently saw a recipe, on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, where Ina Garten added mascarpone cheese at the end of her risotto to add creaminess. This was the first time I tried it and wow, what a delicious finishing move it is. This will remain a part of my recipe moving forward.
Springtime Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup fennel, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
6 to 7 cups simmering mushroom broth (I like Pacific Foods Organic Mushroom Broth)
1/2 pound of asparagus
1 cup of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
.5 oz package of dried porcini mushrooms (equals 2 ounces fresh)
1/2 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for serving
1 small bunch of fresh chives, chopped
Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes or until all the mushrooms are soft and pliable.
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt, saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for about 3 to 5 minutes to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter or until the rice is transparent around the edges. Careful not to brown the rice or the vegetables. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more liquid, just enough to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before. This process should take 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with both the baby bella and the dried mushrooms, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper and the fresh thyme. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture and the Parmigiano Reggiano. Taste and season, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmigiano Reggiano.
And here is the best part – LEFTOVERS!