Coming from Malta, which is geographically very close to Italy, we share a lot of common aspects between our culture and that of Italy. Particularly when it comes to the two cuisines, there is a lot of overlap, so pasta and risotto dishes are a favourite meal amongst the Maltese people.
Risotto can be a great accompaniment to a meat or fish dish. Otherwise, it can be served on its own to let the main ingredient shine. It is a very comforting meal, full of flavour and easy to prepare.
The first risotto I ever had was mushroom risotto. Since then, I have cooked it multiple times and it always brings happiness to my tastebuds and belly. 🙂
I like to experiment and try different flavours. Butternut squash is another great risotto flavour and I mostly do this in Autumn/Winter when the squash is in season. Spring brings with it a great selection of produce, most of which can be incorporated into a delicious risotto. In this recipe I am including spinach, asparagus and ramps.
The key ingredient to a great risotto is patience. You need to give the rice time to slowly absorb all the flavours from the stock and/or vegetables you are using. Make sure that you are never to far from the pot, as you have to stir it constantly to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom. Never make it in a hurry as the result would not be the same! With all this in mind, I am pretty sure you will not be disappointed and will definitely enjoy a great meal! 🙂
Spinach and Asparagus Risotto
An Italian-inspired risotto with fresh Spring produce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
- 6-8 white asparagus
- 300g fresh spinach
- 200g risotto rice
- 100ml white wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
- 8 ramps
- 50g grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
- 2 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a bring pot of water to boil over high heat. Put the spinach leaves in the boiling water and let them cook for 30-60 seconds until they turn bright in colour. Remove from the water and place them in your blender’s smoothie cup. Squeeze the excess water out but leave just the right amount to have a smooth puree once the leaves are blended. Set the spinach puree aside.
- Finely dice the onion, thinly chop the garlic. Peel the asparagus and make sure that they are well peeled otherwise you end up with a bitter taste. Chop the asparagus, leaving the heads whole.
- Warm up the stock and bring it to a gentle simmer. Never add cold stock to hot rice!
- In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, herbs and chili flakes and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add the chopped asparagus and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and let it reduce almost completely, while stirring constantly.
- Add the rice and spinach puree. Keep on stirring to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom.
- Add a ladleful of stock and stir. Once it is absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful. It is important to add once ladleful at a time to ensure that the rice absorbs all the flavour. Keep on repeating this step until the rice is almost done. You might need a bit more liquid or it may be that you do not use this amount of stock. It depends on the type/brand of rice you are using.
- Once you get to this stage, add the grated parmesan cheese and the chopped ramp leaves, mix it all in, taste and season accordingly. Add 2 tablespoons of butter – this is optional (but not for me!) however it gives extra creaminess to the risotto! Turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a griddle pan. Throw in the asparagus heads, season with salt and pepper. These cook quite quickly, you just need to put a bit of colour on them.
- Give a final mix to the risotto and serve immediately, topped with the asparagus heads and more grated cheese.