Impromptu Dinner: Risotto with the Asparagus of Spring


A most successful Easter dinner…for no one. No one was about and everyone was enroute. I decided to make a dinner of it. Giorgio Locatelli loves asparagus, and I do as well, and he has a complicated, near over-complicated, asparagus risotto that I use parts of but never the whole, script. Now I had the time since no one was coming. And the local asparagus, it has just arrived.

I soaked 12 asparagus spears. I cut their ends, trimmed their stalk, and fine-chopped two yellow onions. With one onion, I sauted the peelings and the chopped ends in olive oil, covered for five minutes. To make the stock I added eight cups of water, brought it to a boil, then turned down and cooked, uncovered, for 20 minutes. I then strained it, pressing on it to get all the liquid out and set it aside, still in the pan. 

I then diced the stalks and set the asparagus tips aside. I blanched the stalks in more finely chopped onion, this time with butter, for seven minutes. I seasoned it and set this aside. Three steps of preparation.

Now I was ready to make the risotto. I chopped more onion, chopped as fine as a risotto kernel, and using more butter, I sautéed the onion in a medium Le Creuset. After five minutes, I added one cup of risotto, the vialone version, which I had. I stirred to coat and toast the rice, two or three minutes. You will smell it toasting and feel it starting to stick. Add one-half cup of dry white wine, let it cook off for a moment, and then start to add the stock, that you have created and reheated.

After ten minutes of adding stock, add the blanched asparagus stalks, stir and continue. More stock, stir, again, more, again, for ten more minutes or so, until it all softens. Taste and if it is soft, then turn off the heat and cover. Let it sit for a full minute.

Grate a near cup of fresh parmesan. Add the asparagus tips to the heated stock, for two minutes, then scoop them out and add salt and let them wait.

Add cold butter, three tablespoons, to the covered risotto. Stir and mix and mix and add most of the parmesan and perhaps a little stock. And some salt and more parmesan and some chopped parsley. And the reserved asparagus tips. The risotto is ready.

You will not make this long version often, but it is grand. Asparagus is away for near eleven months and this is a celebration for the long month when it returns. Serve the risotto in your best warmed bowls, with more cheese and some olive oil. Lucky. And spring.

For dessert, I had three new California spring plums, I sliced them vertically and took out their pit and put them in a saucepan with a little water, some vanilla extract and some sugar and some lemon juice and heated them. They softened and mushed and made a lovely sauce, their skins melted. I spooned them over some good vanilla ice cream, and some whip cream on top, and was sorry to not have more people here. They will come now, it was a fine Easter meal.

I would not have made the asparagus recipe without the advantage of extra time. And I would not have thought of the plum sauce without the quiet.

Peter Miller
Peter Miller
Peter Miller runs the Peter Miller Design Bookshop, in Pioneer Square, in the alley between First Avenue and Alaska Way. He is there, every day. He has written three books, Lunch at the Shop, Five Ways to Cook, and How to Wash the Dishes. A fourth book, Shopkeeping, A Manual, will be published in Spring 2024, by Princeton Architectural Press.


  1. The risotto sounds splendid, worth all the steps and all the time, every now and then. The plum sauce can be made with our local plums when they ripen in our summer, whenever it comes. Thanks!

  2. Made the long version, and it was well worth it. I should’ve done it when the asparagus just hit but still worth the effort. Ordered the book. Many thanks.


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