Pressure cooker asparagus risotto is my first attempt to recreate some of the glorious food I had in Italy. (Did I mention I went to Italy?)
La Serenissima, the Serene Republic of the Venetian Empire, lasted for over a thousand years. The Venetian Empire was fueled by trade, their navy’s control over the Mediterranean, and the Veneto, their inland breadbasket.
Or should I say…rice basket? Venetians filled up on risotto, not pasta.1 The Veneto is a broad plain, perfect for rice paddies, stretching from the Po river to the Dolomite mountains. We visited the rice mill at Riseria Ferron, just south of Verona. There we learned all about the local Vialone Nano rice…by eating a fantastic lunch.2
We only make asparagus risotto for about ten days a year – when asparagus is at the height of its season.
Quote from the Sous Chef at Ristorante Pila Vecia
Each course centered around a different type of rice dish. The asparagus risotto, though – that one grabbed me. It was loaded with fresh asparagus and tasted like Spring. It made me think of the first flash of green at the farmers market after a winter of root vegetables.
We got to talk to the sous chef, and he gave us a quick overview of how they make the dish. Now, I’m not going to make asparagus cream – that’s too much, even for me – but the rest of the instructions were easy for a home cook to follow. Simmer the rice in vegetable broth, stir in a lot of butter (and, optionally, grated cheese). Put par-cooked asparagus tips in with the rice, cover, and let them steam through.
I loved Italy – I did not want to leave – but I was itching to get home and try this recipe before asparagus season ended. Pressure cooker risotto is one of my secret recipes.3 Risotto in the pressure cooker does not need the repeated stirring of traditional risotto. Pressure replaces the stirring, releasing the starch from the rice, resulting in a creamy, delicious risotto. Add some asparagus, and…fantastico!Print
Pressure Cooker Asparagus Risotto. Creamy risotto is easy in a pressure cooker – no stirring needed!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, tips and stalks separated
- 1 medium shallot, minced (or a small minced onion)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups Italian medium grain rice (Vialone Nano is traditional, Carnaroli or Arborio are also good choices)
- 4 cups homemade vegetable broth (or store-bought low-sodium broth)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (1/2 teaspoon if using store-bought low-sodium broth)
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated pecorino romano cheese (optional)
- Slice the asparagus: Trim the tough end from the asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus tips from the bunch. Thin-slice the remaining asparagus stalks (I aim for 1/4 inch slices, so they mix in with the grains of rice).
- Sauté the asparagus tips, shallots and asparagus slices, and rice: Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium heat (sauté mode in an Instant Pot) until the oil is shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the asparagus tips with a slotted spoon and set aside for later, leaving as much of the oil behind as possible. Add the shallot and sliced asparagus stalks to the pot, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté, stirring often, until the shallots soften and the asparagus turns bright green, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it the rice turns translucent at the edges, about 5 minutes.
- Pressure Cook the risotto for 5 minutes with a Quick Pressure Release: Stir in the vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes for both electric pressure cookers and stovetop pressure cookers (Manual Mode or Pressure Cook for an Instant Pot). Quick release the pressure. Carefully remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the scalding hot steam.
- Stir in butter and steam the asparagus tips: Leave the pot in keep warm mode (or put a stovetop pressure cooker over low heat.) Stir the butter into the rice, then spread the asparagus tips out on top of the rice in a single layer. Cover the pot (but don’t lock the lid) and steam the asparagus tips until they are tender, about five minutes. Add the (optional) grated cheese, then stir the asparagus tips and cheese into the rice.
- Homemade vegetable broth recipe coming soon
- If you use store-bought broth, watch out for high-sodium vegetable broth. It’s very salty. Skip the salt that goes into the pot with the broth…and probably the grated cheese, too.
- This recipe is best with spring asparagus; the fresher, the better. But it works with asparagus through the rest of the year, too. I won’t judge.
- I had to make the cheese optional – my kids won’t eat risotto with cheese in it for some reason – but it is a nice touch.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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- And polenta. The plains are good for grains and corn, and the Veneto loves thier polenta. But why let corn (an American import from back in the 1500s) get in the way of a good rice story?↩
- Oh, that lunch. I didn’t pace myself and took seconds of the asparagus risotto (and another risotto, with ground meat and cinnamon). I was struggling to keep up by the time the last course arrived. ↩
- Shh! Don’t tell anyone. This is just between you and me. ↩