This Asparagus Orzotto recipe makes a lovely side dish for any spring meal, or a light meal by itself. Vibrant and fresh, the dish is done in less than 30 minutes.
Is it spring yet?!
(Updated post.) Well, it is on paper. But this is Wisconsin, after all, and the temperatures are still languishing in the 20s.
am not a huge fan of hate winter, so spring can't get here quickly enough.
Among my favorite "spring things" (in no particular order) are:
1) the first crocuses poking their fragile heads through the snow,
2) the emergence of my neighbors from hibernation,
3) the return of the outdoor Dane County Farmers' Market, and
4) asparagus. #3 and #4 are closely intertwined because asparagus is one of the first items of produce to hit the stands at the farmers' market.
And so, when I found myself staring at an uncharacteristically gorgeous bunch of asparagus in my local grocery's produce section in the middle of January, I decided to snap it up and use it in a new recipe.
"At least it can taste like spring," I told myself.
I give you Asparagus Orzotto*.
I was recently reminded that every time I post an "orzotto" recipe that uses orzo pasta rather than true Italian orzo, I need to explain. Add a disclaimer? Asterisk?
*This is not an authentic Italian dish.*
True orzotto involves pearl barley. You make it the same way you would a risotto.
For my version, I'm using orzo pasta (which is "risoni" in Italian).
I've co-opted the name not only because it's because this dish, too, is made the same way that you would make a risotto.
But it's done faster than either pearl barley or arborio rice. (And, after all, that's the heart of Flipped-Out Food's mission.)
This orzotto* is every bit as delicious as risotto—only much faster and hands-off to make. Win-win.
All told, this asparagus orzotto (dispensing with the asterisk now, thank you) takes about 30 minutes.
The recipe includes saffron. Not only does it impart a gorgeous, bright-yellow hue to the orzotto, but it also lends a subtle-but-delicious, hard-to-pin-down flavor in the background.
A couple of notes on making the asparagus orzotto.
First, I had envisioned making this dish with pancetta rather than prosciutto, but reconnaissance at the deli counter failed to turn any up.
How does a grocery not have pancetta?! (I'm looking at YOU, Pick 'n' Save!)
Second, I par-cooked the asparagus, stirring it in when the orzotto had finished cooking.
Third, I stirred in a good amount of Parmesan cheese just before plating.
Finally, I arranged some asparagus tops I'd set aside so everything looked pretty and springy and...
Not like the dead of winter.
You can be sure I'll be among the first in line this spring, when, at long last, the Dane County Farmers' Market returns to Capitol Square and the first asparagus hits the stands.
You'll love asparagus orzotto, either as a side dish or a light main. Happy Spring!
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 5 saffron threads
- 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced into 1" lengths (keep tops separated)
- 2 shallots, finely minced
- ⅛ lb. prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
- 1 cup orzo
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
- ⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- Add the chicken stock to a saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring a pot with 4 quarts of water and 3 tbsp. salt to a boil. Boil the asparagus in the salted water for about 2 ½ minutes, then add the tips and boil for an additional minute or so, until everything is crisp-tender. Drain the asparagus and add it to an ice water bath for 1-2 minutes. Drain off the ice water and toss the asparagus with 1 tbsp. of the oil. Set aside.
- Crumble saffron threads into the simmering chicken stock.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, sauté shallots and prosciutto (or pancetta) in the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil for 2 minutes or until shallots are softening and translucent. Add the orzo, continuing to sauté for 2 additional minutes.
- Add the wine, stirring until wine is completely absorbed.
- Gradually add the chicken stock in a slow, steady stream, stirring until all stock is added to the pan. Add salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, or until it's soft enough to suit your taste. Note: if the orzo has completely absorbed the stock but is still chewy, add ¼ cup hot water (or as needed) and continue to cook until the additional liquid is absorbed and the texture is right (the orzotto should be creamy, but not gluey at all).
- Reserve some asparagus tops for garnish. Stir remaining asparagus into the orzotto and remove pot from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and additional freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with the reserved asparagus tops. Enjoy!
To make this recipe gluten free, simply substitute arborio rice. Also lengthen the cooking time to 18–22 minutes, until the rice is al dente (slightly firm when you bite it, but not crunchy).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: ¾ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 368Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 822mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 15g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!