What's for Dinner: Lemony Spring Risotto

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Lemony Spring Risotto

Easter is the perfect time to roll out the red carpet for spring vegetables such as fresh peas and asparagus. This easy risotto dish, brightened with lemon, can be served either as a main course or a side dish. You'll know it's done when the rice is al dente -- the grains are tender but still have a bit of a chew without being crunchy.

You can find arborio rice (an extra-starchy, short-grain Italian rice) at most larger grocery stores, as well as at Italian markets such as Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip District. But in a pinch, any American short- or medium-grain rice is an acceptable, if not perfect, substitute.

2 14½-ounce cans vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound fresh English pea pods, shelled (1 cup peas), or thawed frozen peas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/3 cup finely diced shallots

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a medium lidded pot. Add asparagus and cook 3 minutes or until crisp tender (spears will turn bright green). Remove asparagus to a colander with a slotted spoon and run under cold water; set aside. Repeat with fresh peas, but cook only 1 minute. Set aside. (If using frozen peas, skip this step.) Reduce heat to low and cover broth.

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 2 minutes. Stir in rice and cook 1 minute. Pour in wine and cook until liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the reserved hot broth and stir; when most of the liquid has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup broth. Continue until broth is gone and rice is tender, stirring well with each addition, about 20 to 25 minutes total.

Stir in lemon zest and juice, Parmesan, salt, frozen peas (if using) and reserved asparagus/peas. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side.

-- Adapted from recipes.com.

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.

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