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Asparagus Orzotto

Asparagus Orzotto makes a delicious, beautiful side dish for just about any spring meal.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 -6 as a side dish
Author Michelle Frank


  • 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
  • 1/8 lb. prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste


  • Bring a pot with 4 quarts of water and 3 tbsp. salt to a boil. Add the chicken stock to a saucepan over medium heat. Boil the asparagus in the salted water for about 2 1/2 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, sauté shallots and prosciutto 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 1/4 cup 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!