From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, pp. 248-9.
With all this rain and cool weather it sure doesn’t feel like Spring. I’m lamenting the fact that the cherry and strawberry crops probably won’t be abundant this season. Then I saw this at The Fresh Market
I snatched it up and gently placed it in my cart, immediately thinking of making risotto. I checked Hazan’s book and she didn’t let me down. I replaced the meat broth with chicken broth since that is what I had. Prepare and cook asparagus for 4-5 minutes. Asparagus should be tender but firm, Do not discard water. Remove asparagus and set aside to cool. Add broth to asparagus water in the pot to make 6 cups. Keep this pot at a simmer. When cooled cut off the asparagus tips and set aside. Cut the stalks into bite-sized pieces.
I just realized there are no photos in the book. There are line drawings scattered throughout of various vegetables and of techniques, but no photos of the finished dishes. Hazan’s directions are so descriptive that I can pretty much follow along. Then again, I am not sure, actually I’m pretty certain that I did not pare the asparagus as described on page 466.
After preparing the asparagus, melt butter and oil in the pan. Add chopped onion and saute. Add cut-up asparagus stalks, but not the tips. Add 2 cups rice and stir.
And here is the tricky part: Just keep adding 1/2 cup of the liquid (chicken broth, meat broth, water) and stir, stir, stir. When the liquid boils down add another 1/2 cup and stir. Stir. Add more liquid, while stirring. Stir. Wipe the sweat from your brow and stir. Keep adding liquid and stirring. A tall stool would come in handy for this. My Nonna had a stool she used for cooking at the stove. She couldn’t stand for very long because she had a wound from some shrapnel that hit her during WWII. I didn’t meet her til much later in life when I was 11 and she was in her 70s. I was impressed by how she sat at that stool and easily tossed this and that into a pan and it would come out so delicious!
After 20 minutes check the rice. It should be tender but firm to the bite.
Remove pot from heat and stir in aparagus tips, butter, black pepper, and parmesan. Add salt to taste.
Serve and enjoy.