Easy Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto, Almost No Stirring Required

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

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[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Turning a classic mushroom risotto into a mushroom and asparagus risotto is as easy as it sounds: just add asparagus. The only key is knowing precisely when to add that asparagus for the best flavor and texture (hint: right at the end).

We use a pressure cooker to cook our mushroom risotto, but it can just as easily be adapted for the stovetop using our almost-no-stir technique. I start by rehydrating dried mushrooms (in this case I used some dried morels that my cousin foraged in Montana) in stock. This serves the dual purpose of tenderizing the mushrooms before incorporating them into the risotto, and also infusing the stock with mushroom flavor.

Next I sauté fresh mushrooms in a large pan with butter, olive oil, onions, and garlic. Here I'm using maitake mushrooms, but you can use any mushrooms you'd like. To give them a boost of umami flavor, I add a dash of soy sauce and miso paste as well.

While the mushrooms are cooking, I rinse the rice in the mushroom-infused stock. Traditionally, risotto is toasted in fat before adding any liquid. This deepens its flavor, but it can also inhibit the thickening power of the rice's starch, resulting in less-than-perfectly-creamy results. To solve this, I like to rinse my rice in stock before toasting it. By doing this, you wash the excess starch off into the cooking liquid, which allows you to more deeply toast the individual rice grains while not affecting the starch's thickening power at all.

Once the rice is toasted, I start adding my liquids: a glass of dry white wine, which I allow to completely reduce, and then the mushroom-infused starchy stock.

Old-fashioned risotto recipes recommend you stir constantly with a wooden spoon. I sincerely believe that this technique was born out of Italian grandmothers wanting to keep little bambini occupied for half an hour. I've found that you can easily get away with adding almost all the liquid at once and only stirring it a couple times during cooking.

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When the rice is almost done cooking, it's time to finally add the asparagus so that by the time the rice is tender, the asparagus is still bright green and crisp.

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To finish it off, I stir in some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese along with chives and tarragon. I love the way anise-scented tarragon pairs with asparagus.

And remembers: risotto must—and I mean must—be served on hot plates! As risotto cools down, it turns from light and creamy to thick and stodgy, something a room-temperature plate can speed up. Your risotto ought to flow like lava from the first bite to the last. I preheat plates either in the toaster oven or in my regular oven set to around 225°F for the ten minutes that the risotto is cooking.

Seriously, don't let a cold plate ruin your perfect risotto!