Creamy, delicious and comforting, Risotto is undisputedly one of the classic rice dishes of the world. Recently, out with friends, I spotted a Risotto on the menu: $17.95 for the basic, with prices escalating dependent on the “add ins.” Tempted to try it to see what wonderment would command such a high price, I decided to go with something that’s not so easy to make at home.
Cook’s Illustrated did a Risotto awhile back using a method that eliminates a lot of the standing over and stirring of the traditional risotto method. Not a new concept (home cooks often do this) I was intrigued by their “easy, partially hands off” method and wondered if their scientific approach would improve my risotto.
The answer: Yes. You’ll still need to be on hand for the 30 minute cook time, but this recipe allows you to do all the shifting and shuffling necessary to get dinner on the table in between short little stirs, several minutes apart.
Betcha didn’t know that Risotto can be made with plain old rice, wine and grocery store block Parmesan for well under five bucks? If your primary concern is saving money, a Risotto like this could be made with no wine at all. Just use a bit more stock and add about a tablespoon (to taste) of white wine vinegar to finish. If money’s no object, of course, use the best ingredients you have on hand.
This is a great dish to think about if one has a bit of leftover Asparagus on hand, or any appropriate vegetable – you won’t be able to simmer the ends of the asparagus, but it will still be very good. While leftover Risotto tastes great (usually it needs a bit more liquid) it suffers a bit in texture: an even better use for leftover Risotto is Arancini, delicious balls of cheese stuffed Risotto, breaded and deep fried.
- 1 bunch of Asparagus
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup Arborio rice (or substitute)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute)
- about 5 1/2 cups chicken stock (see note)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Prep your asparagus: Prepare the asparagus by breaking off and discarding the tough ends – take one or two spears and hold near the tip and the end and bend. It will naturally break at the tough part. Line up the tip ends with the rest of the asparagus and slice through them all at once. Don’t worry about waste, you’ll toss those tough ends in your stock.
Cut the rest into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces (tips longer, base shorter.) Set the tips aside. If your asparagus are especially large, cut into smaller (bite-size) pieces.
In a 3 or 4 quart heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Add the rice and cook for 3 minutes or so, stirring until nicely coated in the oil and becoming translucent around the edges.
While the onions and rice are cooking, bring the stock and tough asparagus ends to a simmer in a saucepan, and cook the asparagus. Don’t discard the cooking water yet, you may need to add it to the risotto if you need more liquid.
Add the wine to the rice. Slowly stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 3 cups of the hot stock and stir, and continue to stir now and then (once every three of four minutes) for about 12 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed and the bottom is nearly dry. Use a whisk if using regular old rice.
Now add more stock in 1/2 cup increments to the risotto, stirring gently for about 3 minutes until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Repeat until rice is al dente, an additional three or four times. This should take about 15 minutes. (If your rice is absorbing the stock faster or slower than three minutes, adjust your heat.)
When finished, remove from heat. You want to end up with al dente rice and a creamy sauce – it will thicken a bit more when you add the Parmesan.
Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese, the butter, and the asparagus. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add additional stock or liquid from asparagus if it needs to be moistened. Serve immediately.
Note: the stock amount given is approximate. You may need a little more or less. If you end up needing more stock and you find yourself without, just use water or the cooking water from the asparagus.
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Left over Risotto? Try Arancini di Riso – some things are even better the second time around!
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read Strategies Applied for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
This is a meatless meal, but still has almost 16 grams of protein (30 percent of your needs if you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet.) Cal: 389; Cal from fat: 183; Tot Fat: 13.8 g; Sat Fat: 8g; Chol: 39g; Sodium: 940g; Tot Carb: 44g; Fiber: 1.41; Sugar: 2.36; Prot: 16g.
Put Your Own Spin on it:
This recipe is so versatile and can be varied so many ways that the sky is the limit.
- Any manner of vegetables can be stirred in to suit the season. As a matter of fact, I often make risotto when I have leftover vegetables – I especially love it with leftover lima beans. (Favas are more traditional, and a splurge for me, but I’ll do that sometimes, too.) Peas are wonderful, too.
- You can make your risotto with or without wine, you can add saffron or even other spices. You can go rogue and make up your own flavors! It’s wonderful made with pancetta or bacon, too. You can even make it in a pressure cooker in minutes like I most often do. It freezes beautifully, by the way, for short periods of time.
My Pay Off:
Asparagus Risotto is a healthy no meat meal on the table in 30 minutes – who can complain about that? It tends to impress people, as well….what’s Italian for “Oooh, la la?”
Asparagus Risotto made March 2012, priced $3.85. Remade March 2014 for $3.36. The difference – I’ve become better at judging when Asparagus is at it’s best pricing and taking advantage of it then, and I found a Parmesan at the grocery for $5.99 a pound instead of $7.99 a pound.