For more years than I care to remember, risotto has just been something I make. There is no recipe – it just is. It’s one of those dishes that is more technique than anything else – and once you know the technique… well… it’s pretty quick and easy to do.

That being said, we were watching an episode of Moveable Feast – the cooking show attached to Fine Cooking Magazine – and saw the Costardi Brothers – Christian and Manuel – create a tomato risotto at their restaurant near Milano that looked stunning. While it appeared fairly basic, I wanted to see exactly what they had done. No matter how much I try, the recipe is elusive. I cannot find it, online.

I am reasonably certain I can make a pretty good interpretation based on what I saw on TV, but what Victor found in his searching was a recipe for their Asparagus Risotto. And we just happened to have a bunch of asparagus in the ‘fridge and a brand new box of carnaroli rice.

Carnaroli rice is one of the three main risotto rices of Italy – and the most preferred in Italy. It is regularly hailed as the king or the caviar of Italian rices. It’s also the most forgiving in cooking. I can buy it locally for the same price as the better-known and more readily-available arborio, so I go for the gusto.

The dish came out as one of the top risottos we have ever cooked. Really! The flavors were pure – no onion and garlic. No wine. No extraneous herbs or seasonings. Just the pure flavor of the asparagus and rice, complimented by the various toppings. Each one added its own bit of flavor – a burst of lemon, a bit of olivey salt, a crunch of pine nut, the sweetness of the tomato.

It really was perfection on a plate – and I learned a new technique – toasting the rice in a dry skillet. And by not using a lot of extraneous herbs, spices, and ingredients, it allowed for the main base flavor to shine.

Asparagus Risotto

by Costardi Brothers

Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Tomato Confit

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tbsp of dark muscavado sugar
  • flaky sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Risotto

  • 320g of carnaroli risotto rice
  • 1 qt of vegetable stock, hot
  • 4 asparagus spears, each sliced into 4
  • 50g of butter
  • 50g of Parmesan, grated
  • salt
  • pepper

Garnish

  • asparagus tips
  • 10g of pine nuts
  • 4 black olives, chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon

Method

1. Place the asparagus in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Add the bicarbonate of soda and cook for 5–6 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking water

2. Blitz with a hand-blender until you obtain a smooth cream, adding some of the cooking water if necessary

3. Preheat the oven to 140°C/285°F

4. Cut a small cross on the bottom of the tomato and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds. Cool immediately in iced water

5. Remove the skin, quarter, and put on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and a drizzle of oil. Bake for 30 minutes

6. To cook the risotto, add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and gradually add the vegetable stock

7. When half cooked, add the asparagus cream and finish cooking

8. Add the the butter and Parmesan. Stir until creamy

9. To serve, place the rice on a plate and add the confit tomato, asparagus, pine nuts and chopped olives. Grate over some lemon zest and enjoy

The goal, now, is to make the tomato risotto and see if it can compare.

I have a sneaking feeling it’s going to!

 

 

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