Don’t be tempted to remove the fattier part of the pancetta; the fat melts when it is heating, and these wonderful oils will later infuse the rice. It adds a depth of flavour that really makes the dish.
- 8 thick spears white asparagus
- 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 80 g (2¾ oz) pancetta, finely diced
- 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) carnaroli, vialone nano or arborio rice
- 25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 50 g (1¾ oz) parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
- 1 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- Wash the asparagus spears and trim the woody ends. Cut the spears into 2 cm (¾ in) lengths; leave the tips a bit longer (about 3 cm/1¼ in) and keep them separate. Pour 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) of water into a small saucepan
and bring to the boil. Drop in the shorter lengths of asparagus and cook for 4–5 minutes, then add the tips and cook for another 5 minutes. Drain, reserving all the water, and set aside.
- Pour the stock and reserved water from the asparagus into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and keep it simmering.
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium–low heat, add the pancetta and cook for 4–5 minutes until the fat starts to be released (don’t let it brown). Add the rice and stir so the rice warms through and is coated with oil. Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir well, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. When all the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladleful of stock and continue cooking the rice as described – you want to keep it quite soupy. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, then add the asparagus. Cook, adding stock as needed (or boiling water if you run out of stock) for another 8 minutes or until the rice is cooked but still has a bit of bite. Add the butter and let it melt, then stir it through.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the grated parmesan, then cover and let the risotto rest for a few minutes. Serve on warmed plates, scattered with parsley (if using) and extra parmesan.
Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00