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Spring Risotto with Ramps, Asparagus, and Morels

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Serves 6

  • by Lidia Bastianich from Fine Cooking
    Issue 78

Ramps, or wild leeks, are one of the fleeting pleasures of early spring. Their pungent, almost spicy garlicky-onion flavor mellows a bit with cooking, and this creamy risotto is the perfect vehicle to show them off, paired with two other spring vegetable stars, morels and asparagus.

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup trimmed and roughly chopped ramps
  • 2 cups asparagus pieces (1 inch)
  • 7 cups homemade or reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups short-grain risotto rice, such as arborio or carnaroli
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup dried morels, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 30 minutes and cut into 1/4-inch slices (strain and reserve the soaking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter until foaming, then add the ramps and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring the broth almost to a boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to very low; the broth should stay hot but not simmer.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy 3- to 4-quart straight-sided sauté pan at least 10 inches wide or in a similar-sized Dutch oven. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook slowly, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, lower the heat to medium low, and continue cooking until the water is completely gone and the onion is soft and glistening but not browned, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the rice to the pan and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, to coat the rice with the oil, about 3 minutes. Toasted rice should still be white and glistening, but you should hear a clicking sound when you stir it.

Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s mostly absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir the mushrooms and their soaking liquid into the rice, and cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Ladle in 1-1/2 to 2 cups broth to barely cover the rice and stir constantly. Add another 1/2 tsp. salt, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and keep stirring. When all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is dry enough that your stirring spoon leaves a trail showing the bottom of the pot, ladle in another cup of broth, again stirring until it’s all absorbed. Continue adding broth in 1-cup increments, always stirring, until the rice is nearly but not fully al dente; this is usually 12 to 16 minutes after the first addition of liquid.

When the risotto is a few minutes away from al dente, stir in the sautéed ramps and asparagus.

After you’ve added 5 cups of liquid, (16 to 20 minutes from the first liquid addition), taste the rice to determine if it’s al dente and pleasantly creamy. If it is, remove it immediately from the heat. Otherwise, let it cook a little longer, incorporating more broth. Gently stir in the cheese and parsley and serve immediately.

Photo: Scott Phillips

Although I hate to address all the changes made to the original recipe, I did make changes due to availability and preferences. Used leeks 'cause couldn't find ramps. Hate mushrooms so left them out. All else the same, but reduced by half for a three serving solution since just hubby and me. This was excellent when paired with grilled pork chops with a rub of dried thyme, allspice, salt and pepper. Lydia, thank you very much! Highly recommend!

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