Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring veggie risotto with pancetta, lemon & mint

I start to get really excited this time of year because the things that are popping up at farmer's markets & grocery stores are a welcome sight after these winter months. BYE BYE! heavy, winter comfort food and HELLO! beautiful, bright, fresh spring veggies! 

This dish is a perfect way to highlight that pretty has fresh asparagus & peas (don't worry - you can use frozen peas if:  A)you can't find fresh, or B) you just don't feel like dealing) and the zesty flavors of mint & lemon.  It's a green extravaganza.  Oh, and the little crispy pancetta bits on top are kind of the best thing fancy bacon bits :)!

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 c. water
8 oz. asparagus - cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 c. peas - from 1 pound fresh, whole peas, or frozen & defrosted

3 oz. thinly sliced pancetta - chopped
1 small onion - chopped
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine

2 T. butter
1/2 c. grated Parmesan + more for serving
zest of 1 lemon
2 T. fresh mint - chopped

Combine broth & water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Add chopped asparagus and cook 3 minutes.  Add peas to liquid & cook 1 minute more.  Remove veggies from broth with a slotted spoon (do not drain out broth - we need it for the risotto) and place directly into an ice bath to stop cooking.  Leave broth/water combo on the stove & keep at a low simmer.

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium to heat.  Add chopped pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta pieces are separated, brown & crispy - about 4 minutes.  Remove pancetta and drain on a paper towel.  (the pancetta is a garnish for the finished risotto)

Add chopped onion to pancetta fat and saute over medium-low heat until softened - about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to medium and add Arborio rice.  Cook 1 minute, stirring to coat rice with oil.  Add wine and stir until completely absorbed.

Begin adding the simmering broth to the rice 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. When broth is almost absorbed, add the next 1/2 c. and continue this process for about 18-20 minutes.  Stir often to prevent sticking.  You want the rice to be tender & creamy but still have a little firmness to the bite - al dente, people :)!  The risotto should be slightly soupy in consistency.

Drain the asparagus & peas and add to the risotto & stir.  Stir in butter, Parmesan, lemon zest & mint.  Add a little more broth mixture if it seems too dry (you will probably have leftover broth).  Serve immediately topped with crispy pancetta more Parmesan!  Yum!

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