This golden Saffron Asparagus Risotto is delicate and aromatic, filled with al dente green asparagus, tender sweet peas and a touch of parmesan.
I wouldn’t dare to call this dish “risotto alla milanese” since it contains some asparagus and peas but truth be told, it’s quite similar. Also, the original risotto alla milanese is usually made with beef broth and is the only risotto generally not served as a “primo”, first course, but as a sidedish. Usually serve with ossobuco, this risotto is the king of the North (…of Italy, not Westeros…). For this particular recipe, I consider it a “main meal” but it could also be served as a Primo or side dish. You can also make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth and forget the parmesan. So…let’s talk saffron shall we?
Saffron is the most precious, Gollum style, (my god… I’m in movie mode today…) of spices, the flower’s stigmas called threads are pick up by hand, one by one, and then dried up. Imagine, in a single pinch of saffron, which is about 15 threads, someone had to pick up about five flowers (saffron crocus) and take one by one each threads… before drying them. What a job! Just to make a single gram of dry saffron you would need about 150 flowers… so the reason it costs a pretty penny is clear. Another factor to its “preciousness” is its color, a really unique golden hue, that tint many traditional dishes from around the world from paella to biryani. It also tastes quite powerful with a unique hay tone, which can be quite rapidly overwhelming if you over do it, better go with modesty on this spice. For this particular recipe, the saffron shines though really well, I’ve used 2 small pinches only which I consider the max for a dish. No need for more, if you have a quality bright red saffron, that’s all you’ll need! The saffron is going to give this incredible golden color to your rice, plus the asparagus will help out a bit too! For a delicious and majestic golden risotto result!
Leaky or tight Risotto?
Sometimes risottos are super creamy and leaky other times drier which holding better. I believe for this recipe, a leaky risotto wouldn’t work because of the big chunks of asparagus. I suggest to make it slightly drier, with less broth, this way it will hold the veggies better. As for the final touch, which is “the magic” of risotto, the butter will give the rice a great glossy finish, no need for much, and the parmesan will bind everything together. My secret to a good risotto is to add a sip of white wine in the end of cooking, just to give it a “pop”!
So let’s make this smooth dish!
Saffron Asparagus Risotto
Makes 4-5 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: 30 minutes
- 800ml of chicken or vegetable broth
- 320g of green asparagus
- 300g arborio rice (any round grain rice)
- 150ml of white wine
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1/2 a leek finely chopped
- 2 pinch of saffron
- 150g of frozen sweet peas
- 15g of butter
- parmesan to taste
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Start by adding the saffron to a little bit of warm water and let it infuse the water for 30 minutes
- Add the onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a large pan, let it cook slowly until translucent (about 10 minutes)
- Bring the heat to medium, add the rice and a touch more of olive oil if dry, move constantly with a spatula until the grains start “singing” or become transparent which is about 2 minutes
- Add the white wine, let it evaporate completely
- Add the broth, topping the rice and mix once in a while
- Repeat the last step as much as needed, about 4 times, the whole cooking process is 18-20 minutes
- 5 minutes before the end, add the saffron, asparagus and peas
- When the rice is to your liking, mine is “al dente”, add an *optional last sip of white wine (30ml, no more)
- Stop the fire, add the butter and parmesan to taste, check the seasonning (salt and pepper)