This is a simple spring risotto dish created to showcase the first spring peas I was lucky to find this year. If fresh peas are not available, frozen baby peas will work just as well. For the ham, I bought a thick slice that I simply diced into small squares a little larger than the peas. I decided to add Fontina cheese to add creaminess, in place of Parmesan which is the typical cheese used in risotto. If Fontina cheese is not available, another semi-soft, mild flavored cheese would work well in its place. When serving this risotto dish I often sprinkle on a little additional grated lemon zest and some cracked black pepper. For cheese lovers, you may like to offer grated Parmesan cheese at the table.
Note: Risotto should be served on warm plates so that it doesn't thicken too quickly. Store your plates in a 225°F oven while you prepare your risotto, then remove them carefully using kitchen towels or oven mitts.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, kept warm
- 1 cup shelled baby peas (see note)
- 1 cup finely diced ham (about 4 ounces)
- 1 cup grated Fontina cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the olive oil and half the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat until sizzling over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice completely with the oil mixture. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring often.
Add the wine to the pot, stir to mix, and continue to cook over medium heat until the wine has been absorbed. Add a ladleful of warm broth and continue to cook, stirring constantly. As each addition of broth has been absorbed, add another, stirring constantly until the rice is just slightly firm to the bite, about 20 minutes.
With the last addition of broth, add the peas, ham, Fontina cheese, lemon zest, and basil. Stir to mix, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Fontina cheese, and stir until the cheese has completely melted into the rice. Risotto should have creamy consistency that settles on a plate when spooned. If not, thin with extra stock or water until creamy consistency is reached. Serve immediately on hot plates.