risotto with asparagus and pancetta

It's been well over a decade since I tried my hand at risotto. Perhaps I've been intimidated with the "stir constantly" instructions. (Too impatient.) Perhaps I'm not a big fan of rice. (Not connected with my cultural heritage.) Perhaps I didn't appreciate the oatmeal consistency... well, whatever the reasons were, they no longer exist. Thanks to Dear Sister, who found the cookbook, Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking, I surely will make this dish again and again.

Chef Tourondel used fresh spring peas, which unfortunately aren't available in any suburban supermarkets, so I substituted some asparagus. Pancetta is pork belly which is dry cured with salt, pepper and some spices. Try to use the real thing, as there is no real substitute for it, but if you have to, you could use slab bacon. Chef also instructs to add a splash of wine at the last minute, as it adds just a bit of acidity to the dish.

As for the texture, oatmeal-like is NOT desirable.  The consistency of the rice should be creamy and firm- al dente, or firm to the tooth. The rice should still be in individual grains and should easily spread out, but not have excess liquid around the perimeter.

Risotto with Asparagus and Pancetta
adapted from Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone

About 6 cups chicken stock
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces pancetta, diced
½ cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 cups Arborio or other medium-grain rice
1⅓ cups dry white wine
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a  medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove asparagus to a colander and set aside. Keep chicken stock on a simmer.

In a large, wide saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat it with the oil. Add the wine and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated.

Add 1 cup of the broth to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the broth is absorbed. Add the remaining broth in 3 more additions, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. If the rice seems dry, add a little more broth and stir until creamy and loose.

When the risotto is tender, yet still firm to the bite, stir in the mascarpone and drained asparagus. 

Spoon the risotto into warm shallow bowls. With a swivel-blade vegetable peeler, shave some of the Parmigiano-Reggiano over each portion.

n.b. In his recipe, Chef Tourondel also included 3 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon truffle oil, stirred in right before plating. I usually don't have either on hand, so I simplified the recipe.


  1. I love all the reasons why you have been risotto-averse. I'm glad I'm not the only one with issues :-)

  2. sg- have you ever tried making it? it's not too bad. i'm still waiting for a post on yeast bread from you!!

  3. Love! Love! Love this risotto!!!

  4. Thank you for helping me prepare my first perfect risotto!! I forgot to buy the mascarpone, so I substituted cream cheese and butter instead. XOXOXO

  5. Isn't it divine? So glad you tried and liked it! And an OMG to the decadent sub for mascarpone... Over the top, Mia!

  6. Erin of HomeSavvyAtoZ.comAugust 10, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    I have never made risotto and this post has inspired me to try! Thank you so much for linking up and partying at Home Savvy A to Z this week!

  7. thanks for hosting the party, erin!


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