You are going to love my version of classic risotto with fennel and asparagus. Although most of us associate Italy with pasta, “risotto all Milanese” is also a staple of Italian cuisine from the Lombardy region dating back to the early 1800’s. Traditional risotto is seasoned with onion, a salty Italian cheese, and stock.
For color, texture, and flavor, I like to incorporate seasonal vegetables that will compliment my menu. Perhaps a variety of fresh mushrooms, to make mushroom risotto, such as porcini or the bright orange colored chanterelles that have recently made their appearance at our summer market. For this recipe, I combined fresh fennel and asparagus that had been lightly blanched.
Risotto can be a complete meal or served as a side with your favorite fish, chicken, or maybe osso bucco if you are feeling particularly industrious.
There are a few secrets and techniques to achieving a light yet creamy risotto. Use the traditional Italian short grained rice such as arborio or carnaroli. Do not rinse the rice before cooking. The beauty of this rice is that it is extremely starchy which results in a creamy finish to the risotto. Add the stock in increments, making sure that all of the liquid is absorbed before adding more. The stock should be hot. You can also choose to use part stock and part wine or perhaps a splash of vermouth. I like to use a healthy pinch of saffron to add color and flavor to the risotto.
Finish the risotto with a freshly grated salty Italian cheese. I used a three cheese blend for their recipe with asiago and parmesan and romano. Some people like to add a little heavy cream to the risotto at the end to increase creaminess. The grated lemon zest is the finishing touch and seems to gather all of the flavors together accentuating the ingredients of the risotto. Check out the recipe below for my classic risotto with fennel and asparagus.