Risotto With Asparagus, Fiddleheads, or Snap Peas (Recipe)

A springtime risotto recipe

I just ran across a recipe for asparagus risotto riddled with dire warnings about how difficult it is to get the asparagus just so, and the “constant vigilance” required to cook the rice to the right degree of doneness without ruining everything. The writer further intimidates anyone contemplating having a go at risotto by noting that even skilled chefs have a hard time getting it right.

To which I respond: oh, hooey. It’s true that you have to stand at the stove and stir for 25 minutes, but how complicated is that? The shops are full of local asparagus and peas, and even fiddlehead ferns if you’re lucky, and there’s nothing better than a creamy risotto studded with something fresh and green.

I just made one with fiddleheads that I picked from the ostrich ferns emerging in the woodsy part of my garden, but another favorite at our house is a lemony version with asparagus or snap peas. Or snow peas, if you like. Here’s the simple recipe, and it comes with only one warning: it can be addictive. You can use any rice, but Arborio rice is creamier because it’s starchier. Stirring is important. I always have a magazine handy to read while I’m making risotto. You don’t have to stare at the rice, but you do have to keep it slowly moving so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

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  • ½ pound asparagus, snap peas, snow peas, fiddleheads
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 minced shallot or small onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice, rinsed 
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice 
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan


  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan, and keep it at a low simmer.
  2. Wash and trim the asparagus into 2-inch pieces, and steam or blanch it until it’s almost but not quite cooked; likewise with peas or fiddleheads. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy pan over medium heat, and sauté the shallot and garlic until translucent, two or three minutes. Add the rice and sauté, stirring, for a minute or two, until the grains are separated and coated with oil. Add salt to taste.
  4. Add the wine and continue stirring until it’s almost evaporated. Begin adding the stock, about a half cup at a time, stirring slowly until it’s almost absorbed. Each ladle of stock should not quite cover the rice, and should bubble slowly. Adjust the heat so that the liquid is not absorbed too quickly. The process should take about 20 to 25 minutes, at which point the rice will be soft but still have a little bite. If you run out of stock before that point, use water.
  5. Save a small amount of stock for the final step. When the risotto is almost finished, add the reserved vegetables and warm through for a couple of minutes.
  6. Mix Parmesan, lemon juice and zest together. Add the final stock to the risotto, remove from heat, and stir in the Parmesan-lemon mixture. Heat briefly, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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