Ever since I bought a giant bag of arborio rice YEARS ago after taking an Italian cooking class, I’ve been dying to try making it at home. Well, let’s just say time flies, and a mere half a decade later, I finally did it. Hooray!
For those that are risotto-virgins, making it is super easy – it’s just time-consuming. Basically you have to stand there and keep adding liquid and constantly stir the risotto the entire time it’s cooking, usually about half an hour or so. This doesn’t mean you can’t take minute breaks here and there to clean up around the kitchen, but you can’t just leave that thing on the stove. So plan accordingly. I suggest having an ebook or some articles to read on your smartphone as you stir away. All that said, the end result is fabulous! Cheesy, hearty, comforting, delicious goodness. Another giant win? Baby loved it and couldn’t get enough. This particular one is chock full of veggies, so it made me feel like at least I was eating something a teensy bit good for me (I know, I know, just let me live in my dreamland, ok?)
This was a fairly easy and delicious meal that I’ll definitely want to redo, especially on a cold winter’s night. Just visualize a glass of crisp white wine next to it…ahhhh….Thank you Ina Garten. (Random thoughts – why is she called the Barefoot Contessa? I’ve never seen her barefoot once on that show. Also, how lucky is Jeffrey? She puts out the paper and everything for him to relax while she makes him a wonderful homemade meal. My husband’s lucky to get a fork with the meal.)
1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 pound thin asparagus
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, preferably Italian
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water. (If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes until the starchiness is gone.)
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese
** Lovely Notes: I didn’t have chives, so skipped it and it was still great. Also if you don’t like fennel, don’t worry, the end results tastes nothing like fennel and you won’t even know it’s in there! **