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Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Spring In My Step

I don't often make risotto because I'm just not into all that stirring.  Sure, there are those of you out there who find the stirring to be calming. And there are those of you who think of making risotto as an upper body workout.  I don't.  If I want to develop my arm muscles, I'll blow dry my hair.

But I do like risotto, and a couple of years ago I discovered Ina Garten's "Magic Risotto", as I like to call it.  All of a sudden risotto became something I might actually make at home because it was baked.  In the oven.  With minimal stirring.

Today I was in Williams Sonoma doing a little browsing.  While I was waiting to meet my friend,  I struck up a conversation with my favorite WS saleslady.  We got to chatting about what to make for dinner and she mentioned this recipe.  It sounded good.  It sounded pretty easy.  It required no stirring.  And I had everything I needed to make it in the house.  Having everything in the house instantly makes a recipe sound good to me.

The recipe required a little prep time but once that was done, into the oven it went.  20 minutes later  out came perfect risotto.  It was creamy.  It looked like I had been stirring for hours.  Five minutes on the stove, just to add the veggies, butter, and cheese, and onto the table it went.

It was the perfect spring meal, what with the asparagus and the peas.  And it required no stirring.

Recipe:  Baked Risotto with Peas, Asparagus & Pancetta


4 ounces finely chopped pancetta
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large shallots (4 cloves), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/2 bunch pencil-thin asparagus stalks, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven 400°F.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon butter and shallots to the pancetta drippings and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and sauté until every grain is coated with butter, about 1 minute.

Increase heat to high. Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Add stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the liquid is almost cooked out and the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place over moderate heat. Stir in peas and asparagus and cook until the vegetables are bright green and warmed through, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with additional Parmesan and reserved pancetta.
Recipe Notes
Vegetarian Version: This recipe can easily be made vegetarian. Sub in olive oil for the pancetta and use vegetable broth instead of chicken stock.
To make the risotto in advance, bake the risotto for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator. When ready to serve, add 1 1/2 cups hot stock and vegetables and cook over medium heat until warm. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Season to taste.

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