Just a few more days until the calendar tells us it is springtime….”primavera” in Italian. I, for one, am thoroughly done with winter. I’m sick of wool coats, boots, gloves and root vegetables. Yes, I’ve had it up here with root vegetables. I long for seasonal asparagus, sweet peas, zucchini and dandelions. We are fortunate to be able to find these vegetables in our supermarkets all year round, but I never find the flavor to be as tasty as when purchased locally and in season.
Being impatient for spring to blossom, I decided to bring some springtime flavors into my kitchen, even though I was jumping the gun a bit. Nothing says “winter is over” to me more than risotto primavera. The light, crisp flavors of asparagus, peas and zucchini, paired with the slight crunch of the risotto, awaken my taste buds after a long, heavy winter’s nap.
As I have mentioned before, risotto was brought into our family-fold by my sister and brother-in-law in the 1980’s. Since that time, I have made risotto in so many variations, and with so many different vegetables and “condimenti,” that I feel confident in making it with just about anything, However, I must pay homage to Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman, whose cookbook “Risotto,” published in 1987, has given me the clear cut formula for making perfect risotto every time for several decades.
To make risotto primavera, you can substitute any springtime vegetables you like. I’m using my favorites here in this recipe. Just remember to add the vegetables in order of cooking time needed, so the texture of each vegetable is relatively similar when the dish is finished.
Welcome to spring! Welcome to primavera!
RECIPE: serves 4
Brodo: 5 cups vegetable broth (approximately…you may find you need more)
1/2 cup dry white wine
Soffritto: 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup finely minced onion
Riso: 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
Condimenti: 3/4 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, reserving the tips separately
2 cups zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Brodo: Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan.
- Soffritto: Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4 quart dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to soften.
- Riso: Add the rice to the soffritto, using a wooden spoon, stirring for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.
- Condimenti: Add the asparagus (not the tips) and begin to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next half cup. Reserve 1/4 cup of the broth for the end. About halfway through the broth (about 10 minutes), add the zucchini and stir well to incorporate. Cook about 4 minutes. Then add the peas, stir a bit and then the asparagus tips. Keep adding broth ( if you need more, just add it to the pan of simmering broth). Stir frequently to prevent sticking. After approximately 18 to 20 minutes, when the rice is tender but firm, add the reserved 1/4 cup broth. Turn off the heat and add the butter, parmesan and parsley. Stir vigorously to combine with the rice. Serve immediately with passed Parmesan cheese.