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Risotto with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4

Risotto relies on the combination of the starch released from special varieties of short-grain Italian rice, such as Arborio, mixed with liquid (usually broth), and fat, to create a creamy, clinging sauce which bathes the rice.

With less than half the usual oil, butter, and cheese, this recipe is quite a bit less rich than the traditional, but slow-cooked zucchini contributes to a soft, silky texture. Additional vegetables add bulk in place of fat, and other vegetables (such as fennel, butternut squash, spinach, and mushrooms) can be added, or substituted for those used below. 

Ingredients

Method

  1. Combine the oil and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the zucchini, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook until softened and lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the 5 cups stock to a simmer in a saucepan wide enough to hold the asparagus. Add the asparagus and simmer until barely tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs. Cut off the tips in nice sized pieces (about 1 1/2 inches), and cut the stalks into smaller, bite-sized pieces; transfer to a bowl. Add the peas, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and 1 tablespoon basil; set aside. Put a lid over the stock, and reduce the heat to very low so that the stock barely simmers.
  3. When the zucchini is cooked, stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of the basil. Add the butter and the rice, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup simmering stock and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding the broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, and cooking, stirring frequently, until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy and has the texture of loose porridge, 17 to 20 minutes. The rice mixture should bubble away at a good clip. (You may not use all of the stock.) Stir in the reserved contents of the bowl and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.
  4. Divide the risotto between 4 serving bowls. Sprinkle each with some of the chopped tomato, the remaining cheese, and the mint, if using. Serve immediately.