Asparagus Risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto

When I use to watch Top Chef (when we had cable) risotto was the downfall of many a chef. It is considered complicated and exacting and labor intensive. A perfect risotto may be all of those things, but I find risotto one of my “go to” dishes. It is pretty straight forward, has endless options for flavors and can generally be made with things I have on hand. Case in point, asparagus risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto.

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I was feeling a bit lazy today and didn’t want to go out to grab something to eat. I wanted something filling and tasty, but I really didn’t know what. Part of me wanted quinoa tacos, but I don’t have the makings for the salsa or any taco shells, so that would have required a trip to the grocery. Instead I looked at my fridge and pantry and came up with risotto. I didn’t have any white wine opened, and I didn’t feel like opening another bottle of wine just for the risotto, so I skipped it. I used what I had and it came out pretty darn great. Bob said it was my best risotto version yet.

Here is the thing about risotto. It really isn’t hard. Yes, it takes time and you have to pay attention to it, but it isn’t the impossible dish chefs can make it out to be. It doesn’t require constant stirring, but you do need to stir some. It doesn’t have to be weighed and measured and timed exactly right, but you have to be careful not to over or under-cook the rice. It takes care, but no more than some meat dishes that can easily be over done and dried out. If you are not going for pure perfection, you can get a very tasty dish.

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Recipe:

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • 1 small, sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 oz. asparagus
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (about)
  • 1/4 cup kale pesto (or whatever pesto you have on hand)
  • 3 oz. grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan (about 1 tablespoon)

Heat the broth in a small, covered pot.

Wash and chop the asparagus – pieces should be about 3/4 of an inch or so. Small dice the onion and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the sun-dried tomatoes (or just buy the pre-cut ones – I like the vacuum packed varieties). Grate the cheese.

Heat a pan of olive oil. When hot, add garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about three to five minutes. Add rice and coat. Cook about two to three minutes, stirring frequently. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add about 3/4 cup of warm vegetable broth and stir. When liquid has absorbed, add a tiny bit more salt and pepper, then another 3/4 cup of broth. Allow to cook over medium or slightly lower heat. When liquid has been mostly absorbed, stir then add 1/2-3/4 cup more broth and stir again. After third addition of the broth, add asparagus and mix well.  After the fourth addition of broth, add sun-dried tomatoes. I added more salt and pepper here, but I generally go light on the salt and wanted to make sure it had enough. Keep adding broth, 1/2-3/4 cup at a time until the rice is fully cooked and you have used most, if not all of your liquid. One caution – make sure the liquid is warm and you wait until the previous liquid is absorbed before adding more.

Remove from heat and stir in pecorino cheese until it is fully combined. Add pesto and mix well. Squeeze a little lemon over the whole pan and mix again. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

I had kale pesto on hand since I made batches and batches of it last month, but if you want to make it yourself ….

  • 1 bunch kale leaves, stems removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • honey – 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on taste
  • salt
  • olive oil – about 1/3 cup (I think – I never measure, so it could be more or it could be less)

Place kale, garlic, almonds, salt, and lemon in food processor. Chop, scraping the sides between rounds. When everything is chopped finely, add honey and olive oil and mix again. Add cheese at the end (I usually add the cheese in a bowl and mix that in by hand). Adjust seasoning as needed.

 

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