I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to like this meal.  In general I enjoy risotto, and I like most vegetables, but something about the combination of ingredients in this dish made me unsure whether we would really like it or not.  I decided to just go for it because if I know one thing, it’s that Ina almost never lets me down.  I’m so glad I trusted her this time around because I was completely wowed by this dish.  The combination of all the fresh vegetables with the lemon zest and black pepper gave this a complex flavor that was just fantastic.  And the brilliant addition of a bit of mascarpone cheese to make an ultra creamy risotto – why have I never thought of that?  I think I’ll apply that to more risottos in the future.  I think this would be the perfect addition to an Easter meal if you decide to stray from the usual ham/potatoes/green veggie spread.  If I were hosting this year, it would most definitely be on my menu.  We ate this as a main dish but it also makes an elegant side.  Also – huge progress here, even Ben the supposed pea hater liked this.  Win!

Spring Green Risotto
Printer-Friendly Version

5 cups chicken broth or stock
1½ tbsp. olive oil
1½ tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
3 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts (about 2 leeks)
1½ cups Arborio rice (medium grain rice)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 lb. asparagus (thin spears preferable), cut into 1-inch pieces and tough ends discarded
10 oz. frozen peas, thawed (or 1½ cups shelled fresh peas)
1 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese (cream cheese is a fine substitute)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tbsp. minced fresh chives

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth or stock over medium heat until simmering.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, keeping the stock warm.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the shallots and leeks to the pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until tender.  Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat well with the oil and butter, cooking for about 1 minute.  Add the white wine and simmer over medium-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.

Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking.  (If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes as well.)

When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, add the asparagus and peas to the risotto.  Stir in the lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.  The entire process should take about 25-30 minutes.

When the risotto is done, remove the pan from the heat.  Mix in the lemon juice, mascarpone, Parmesan and chives.  Stir until the cheeses are melted in and the risotto is creamy.  Serve immediately with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten