When you're ready to move on from cozy casseroles, try this easy, adaptable, and comforting, entrée.

By Victoria Spencer
March 18, 2021
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It's light, it's bright, and it's simple, but what we love most about this springtime dinner is that it's made in just one pot. There's a lot to love about risotto any time of the year, but we're of the mindset that spring is the very best time to enjoy this creamy rice dinner. The comforting texture of risotto makes it an easy sell, even for picky eaters, but risotto also feels a little elegant, which means you can easily prepare it for a more special occasion. For all these reasons and more, this Asparagus-and-Lemon Risotto is our go-to spring dinner.

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Credit: Andrew Purcell

Did we mention this is a plant-based meal? It's made with fresh asparagus, frozen peas, onion, vegetable stock, arborio rice, white wine, olive oil, lemon, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. If you want to make it a vegan meal, simply skip the Parmesan that's added at the end of cooking; nutritional yeast could be used to finish a vegan version or just go with the lemony asparagus flavors of the dish as is.

The Rice

Beside the asparagus, the most important elements of this risotto are good quality stock, homemade or store bought, and the right rice. The rice most often used for risotto is arborio, a starchy short grain rice that creates the almost creamy texture as it cooks. You can also use caranoli, another short grain starchy Italian rice, but this is not the time to pull out your usual long grain white rice. If you want to make the risotto healthier, use pearl barley or farro in place of arborio rice. Neither will produce quite the same velvety, almost porridge-like texture, but they would bring more whole grain wholesomeness to the meal.

The Process

Yes, risotto does require standing at the stove for stirring. It doesn't need constant watching, but it does need tending. And yes, this recipe does call for white wine (sometimes we use vermouth instead). Either way, the alcohol cooks off while the dish cooks. Some people like to add the asparagus stalks earlier, about 10 minutes in to the cooking.

Mix It Up

You may well love this risotto so much that it becomes your go-to spring dinner, but if you're looking for different ways to prepare risotto each week, here are a few ways to ring the changes in an oh-so subtle but delicious kind of way. First, try swap sliced mushrooms for the frozen peas or the asparagus. You'll want to sauté them before adding them to the risotto, but if you like thee idea of a strictly one-pan dinner, we suggest sautéing them before you start the risotto, then cooking your rice in the same pan after. If you happen to have ramps, lucky you! Add in some sliced ramp greens, but remember that just a little as the pungent flavor goes a long way. And anytime you make this essence-of-spring risotto, top it with a sautéed or broiled fish fillet—maybe flounder or salmon—or everyone's favorite chicken breast. They're all great options if you family is the type that needs a piece of protein to make it dinner.

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