1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced on an angle into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken stock
A healthy pinch of saffron
4 tbsp. olive oil
¼ to 1/3 lb. meaty pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 ½ cups short-grain rice (such as carnaroli or Arborio)
1 cup white wine
¾ lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
About 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 scant tsp. crushed red pepper
½ cup dry (white) vermouth
A small handful (about 1/4 cup) of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 tbsp. butter
About 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Prepare a large bowl of ice water. In a pot, bring a couple of inches of salted water to a boil. Cook the asparagus for 2 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry.
In a medium saucepan, warm the stock and saffron over low heat.
In a round-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. When the oil begins to smoke, add the pancetta. Cook, stirring often, until the fat renders, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, 2 garlic cloves, and black pepper; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir until coated, about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir until absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the warm stock, a few ladlefuls at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. From the time you start adding the stock, the risotto should take exactly 18 minutes to cook.
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. oil, two turns of the pan, in a medium skillet over medium-high to high. Add the shrimp; season with salt, the thyme, crushed red pepper, and the remaining 2 garlic cloves. Cook, tossing, until the shrimp are almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the vermouth. Cook, swirling the pan, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, lemon juice, and 1 tbsp. butter. Remove from heat.
When the risotto has been cooking for 18 minutes, stir in the remaining 2 tbsp. butter, the Parm, and asparagus. Ladle the risotto into shallow bowls. Top with the shrimp.