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Risotto - a classic dish. Today Risotto with Green Asparagus

Welcome back to the Mama Isa's Cooking School and to her blog!

We talk about one of the classic dishes of the Italian culinary landscape, an irresistible treat for all those who love tasty and healthy food. Risotto plays a role as pasta in Italian kitchens, and it is considered a PRIMO PIATTO.

The Italian Risotto was born in Milan in 1574, when its great gothic Cathedral (Il Duomo) was under construction. The Flemish glassmaker master – Valerio from Perfundavalle – worked on the stained-glass windows of the Duomo, and he used to add saffron to enhance his paint pigments and when mixing his colors. In 1574 the apprentice Zafferano (Saffron) married the Valerio's daughter and held the wedding banquet in the coiser behind the Duomo's apse. As a joke the groom's friends added saffron to a pot of rice. The wedding guests relished the saffron riso, and “risotto allo zafferano” quickly grew popular throughout Milan and Lombardia and Italy.

 Undoubtedly, despite the fact that Italy is not among the oldest and the largest producers of rice in the world, the Italians have created many variations of risotto recipes known all over the world. As a matter of fact, the recipe is a masterpiece and cooking risotto needs patience. For Mama Isa is very relaxing!

At Mama Isa Cooking Classes you will learn that using the starch naturally contained in rice (Mama Isa uses or Vialone Nano or Carnaroli or Arborio rice).

 All risotto is prepared the same way: where rice is coated in the “soffritto” in unsalted butter or evoo, then hot stock – which has been simmering on the gas stove – is added to it, a ladle at a time and the risotto is stirred over a low heat (please add stock only when all the liquid has been absorbed).
The method continues till the rice is tender and creamy, but still retains a bite, approximately 20 minutes.
 The final touch and the most important technique for making a creamy risotto is called in Italy “mantecatura”, which means add a dash of butter or evoo, (when necessary Parmigiano reggiano cheese) off the heat, and cover for a couple of minutes. This makes the risotto really creamy!

The result is a harmonious, creamy, elegant and exquisite dish that has little in common with the simple rice, often boiled, used in many cultures around the globe. The cooking process itself is quite elaborate. It starts with a soffritto, then the toasting of the rice that allows the grains to become translucent and release an intense fragrance. Once that’s done, liquids enter the scene, added gradually so that the grains can absorb them. The final touch is called mantecatura – i.e. the introduction of fat combined with vapour that invites the flavours to blend. Types ot Risotto

During the hot summer, risotto can absorb the perfume of the sun, with the help of plum tomatoes from Sicily. In the autumn days, the smell of wild porcini mushrooms will fill the palate of aromas. During the winter, a risotto strictly served hot, with bitter radicchio trevigiano and a Parmigiano reggiano cheese. With the arrival of spring, here is the risotto with the flavour of green asparagus.

Mistake to avoid
If you wash the rice you remove the starch which is indispensible for a creamy risotto.

 Mama Isa's Risotto with Green Asparagus 

INGREDIENTS (for 6 servings)
1 kg of fresh green asparagus
Enough Basic Homemade Asparagus Broth (in a pan that can accommodate all the asparagus lying flat. Put in enough water – min. 1 ½ lt, and 2 tablespoons salt. Turn on the heat to medium high and when the water boils, slip in the asparagus and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil, depending on the freshness and thickness of the stalks. Drain the asparagus when tender, but still firm, without discarding their water. Set aside to cool. The broth is ready to make the risotto)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot chopped very fine
1 glass of good white wine (not cooking wine!!!)
2 cups Vialone Nano or Arborio or Carnaroli rice
black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
Parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated (12 tablespoons)
a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, cold press

Cut off 2 cm or more from the butt end of the green asparagus spears to expose the moist part of each stalk, then pare the asparagus and wash it. When the green asparagus is cool enough to handle, cut off the tips of the spears about 3-4 cm from the top and set aside, and cut the rest of the spears into ½ cm pieces, discarding any portion of the bottoms that seems particularly tough hard.

Bring the broth to a very slow simmer on a burner near where you’ll be cooking the risotto.
Put 3 tablespoon of unsalted butter, and the chopped shallot in a risotto pot, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the shallot, stirring, until it becomes translucent.
Add the cut-up asparagus stalks (but not the spear tips).

Add the wine and let it evaporate. Then cook, stirring constantly with a risotto spoon (with a large hole in the middle to enable you to stir rice constantly without breaking any grains), wiping the sides and bottom of the risotto pot clean as you stir, until all the broth is gone.
You must never stop stirring and you must be sure to wipe the bottom of the risotto pot clean frequently, or the rice will stick to it.
When there is no more broth in the risotto pot, add another half cup, continuing always to stir it. Cook the rice until it is tender, but firm to the bite, with barely enough broth remaining to make the consistency somewhat runny.
Off heat, add the reserved asparagus tips, a few grindings of fresh black pepper, the remainings tablespoons of unsalted butter, and all the grated Parmigiano reggiano, and stir thoroughly until the cheese melts and clings to the rice.
Taste and correct for salt if necessary. Transfer to a platter,add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and serve hot!
The art of risotto making at Mama Isa's Cooking School - Risotto with green asparagus

Buon Appetito!