4 cups chicken stock (32 ounces)
1 heavy pinch saffron (about 30 threads)
1 bunch asparagus spears – larger stalks are fine
A bunch or few handfuls of ramps (wild leeks) or 1 bunch spring onions (4-5) or 2 small leeks or 1 bunch scallions
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
3-4 cloves spring garlic, peeled and thinly sliced or 2 large cloves purple garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh green peas, shelled (optional – I add them in when they are in season)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons butter
A couple handfuls of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Place the stock plus 2 cups water in a pot with the saffron. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
Trim the tough ends of the asparagus away and thinly slice on an angle.
Wash the ramps or spring onions and trim them up. Finely chop the whites of the ramps or onions. Cut the ramp tops into 1-inch pieces or thinly slice the spring onions or scallion greens on an angle and reserve. In a round-bottomed pan, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the ramp or onion whites, garlic, salt and pepper and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two more; add the wine and stir until absorbed into the rice fully. Begin adding the stock, a few ladlefuls at a time. With each addition of stock, stir the rice vigorously to build up the starch; do not add more liquid until most of the last addition has been absorbed. The rice will be al dente after 18 minutes. If you have stock left at this point, don’t sweat it. The dish will take about 5 cups of liquid, more or less, but never exactly the same amount twice. If you are using peas, stir them into the rice midway in preparation. Begin preparing the asparagus in a separate skillet 2-3 minutes before the risotto is done cooking: Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, a turn of the pan, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and lightly brown, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then douse the pan with lemon juice. Finish the risotto by stirring in the butter, a couple of handfuls of cheese and half the asparagus. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls and top with the remaining asparagus to garnish.