It’s hard not to love this delicious, creamy Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus. I simmer arborio rice with spring peas, asparagus, white wine, and chicken stock. Freshly grated parmesan cheese finishes the dish. Get the recipe and my culinary tips on how to make restaurant-quality risotto at home.
This recipe just screams spring! I love developing recipes this time of year. I get inspired seeing the piles of vibrant spring vegetables like artichokes, spring peas, asparagus, and ramps at the market. Some of my favorite spring dishes are my Spring Vegetable Spaghetti Carbonara and Roasted Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes.
My Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus is a delicious spring dish that you can make at home. It's perfect for special occasions like Mother's Day, Easter, date night or really anytime you want to cook a restaurant-quality dish at home. It has layers of flavor and plenty of colorful spring vegetables like leeks, asparagus, and peas.
It’s hard not to love risotto with its rich flavor and creamy texture. Risotto is a staple on Italian restaurant menus but home cooks are often intimidated to make it. However, with the right technique and a few tips, you’ll be able to make perfect risotto at home and impress your guests!
What is risotto?
Risotto is a classic Italian rice dish and the ultimate comfort food. It's made by cooking starchy, short-grain rice with aromatics, white wine, and stock or broth. The stock is added in stages, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, and the rice is stirred constantly.
As the rice is stirred, it releases its starches. The end result is a deliciously creamy dish with a rich, velvety texture and layers of flavor.
The dish is often finished with butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese for extra flavor and creaminess. Other ingredients can also be added to the risotto at the end such as roasted mushrooms, butternut squash, crispy bacon or even lobster.
Because risotto cooks slowly on the stove and requires a lot of stirring, it can be intimidating for many people. It's a labor of love but is not difficult to master. Once you get the technique down, you can use it to make all kinds of delicious risotto variations.
My Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus is a delicious dish with bright notes of zesty lemon. This dish highlights lovely, vibrant spring vegetables- leeks, asparagus and peas.
In addition to the traditional risotto ingredients, I also add a splash of fresh lemon juice and some lemon zest to this dish. The lemon adds a nice acidity and brightness to the dish that cuts through the richness of the risotto.
This lemon risotto is delicious alone or served with a protein. It pairs especially well with seafood like sautéed shrimp, scallops, salmon or whitefish (see "What To Serve With Risotto" section).
What kind of rice to use
Risotto is classically made with a starchy, short-grain Italian rice. Arborio rice is the most common variety and the most readily available in grocery stores. Other types include carnaroli and vialone nano, which can be found in specialty stores or online.
These varieties of rice are used because of their high starch content. That's what gives risotto is trademark velvety texture.
- Leeks- have a mild, sweet oniony flavor. You can substitute shallots or onion.
- Arborio rice- the classic short-grain, starchy rice used in risotto. You can use other varieties like carnaroli or vialone nano.
- White wine- a dry white wine is best. The alcohol cooks off during cooking but if you don't want to use wine, you can just leave it out.
- Chicken or vegetable stock or broth- I always buy low sodium stock/broth so that I can control the amount of sodium in my dishes. Homemade stock will have more flavor than store-bought stock but you can use either one. Check out my post on How to Make Homemade Chicken Stock.
- Peas- I typically use frozen peas but if fresh peas are available at the market, go for it- you'll just need to cook them longer.
- Asparagus- one of my favorite nutrient-packed spring vegetables! Read my post all about asparagus.
- Lemon juice and zest- add bright, citrusy flavor and acidity that cuts through the rich risotto
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese- it just makes everything taste better! Use freshly grated cheese here instead of pre-grated- it adds tons of flavor and creaminess.
How to make risotto creamy
A perfectly cooked risotto should have a creamy, almost porridge-like consistency, yet each grain of rice should retain a distinct bite. In order to achieve this texture, the rice is first lightly toasted in a pan.
Then the cooking liquid is added in stages while the rice is stirred almost constantly. This process slowly releases the starch in the rice and produces a luscious, creamy consistency.
Once you have the technique down you can adapt the same method for other types of grains. You can use small pasta shapes like orzo.
If you’re trying to incorporate more whole grains in your diet, you can use grains like barley, farro or brown rice. Keep in mind that you'll have to adjust for a longer cooking time with these grains and will need to use more cooking liquid.
Step by step instructions
The classic way to cook risotto is on the stovetop. Some risotto recipes use other more hands-off techniques such as baking in the oven or cooking in the Instant Pot. However, here's how to make risotto the traditional way.
1. Cook the vegetables
First, cook your vegetables. You want to cook your vegetables separately and add them to the rice at the end rather than cooking them with the rice. This avoids mushy veggies.
In my Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus, I use asparagus and peas. You can cook the vegetables by blanching them. To do this, drop the veggies into boiling water for a few minutes. Then, shock them in cold water. This stops the cooking process and preserves their color and texture.
Then, drain the vegetables and set them aside. You will stir them into the risotto at the end of cooking.
2. Heat the stock
You can use chicken or vegetable stock or broth in this dish. Try to use a good quality stock or if you have time, you can make homemade stock. I like to mix the stock with a little water as well. In general, you will need about 4 cups of liquid for each cup of raw rice.
You want to make sure to heat your stock. Adding cold liquid to the hot risotto will slow down the cooking process. The best way to heat the stock is to keep it at a low simmer in a saucepan on the stove.
I like to add some vegetable trimmings and herbs to infuse it with extra flavor. For this recipe, I toss in some of the ends from the leeks and asparagus as well as some parsley stems.
3. Sauté the aromatics
First, sauté your aromatics (like leeks, onion, shallots, garlic) in a little olive oil or butter over medium heat.
3. Add the rice
Once the aromatics are partially softened, add the rice. Stir the rice to coat each grain with the fat. Lightly toast the rice for 1-2 minutes before you start adding the liquid. This helps the rice retain the proper texture as it cooks and prevents it from becoming mushy.
4. Add the liquid in stages
Next, add some dry white wine and simmer it for a few minutes to reduce it. Wine adds depth of flavor to risotto but you must let it reduce to avoid any raw wine flavor.
Now, you're ready to add the stock that you've been keeping warm in a saucepan. Add the stock in stages, a few ladlefuls at a time, stirring constantly as you go. Each time the liquid is almost fully absorbed, add about ½ cup more. Keep adding more stock and stirring until the rice is cooked.
Traditionalists say the best risotto is made with a wooden spoon. This is because a wooden spoon is less likely than a metal spoon to break the grains of rice.
5. Stir in the vegetables and additional ingredients
After about 20 minutes, the rice will be done. It should be plump and al dente- tender but still firm to the bite. You don't want to overcook the risotto and end up with mushy rice.
At this point, lower the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, cooked asparagus and peas, parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Some recipes will call for a bit of mascarpone cheese or cream at the end but this dish really doesn't need it. The finished dish has a rich, creamy, velvety texture.
6. Serve immediately
Risotto is one of those dishes that's best made "a la minute." That's a culinary term that means that it should be made and served immediately rather than being prepped in advance and held for service. This is because risotto is best while it’s still warm and creamy. The longer it sits, the more it will stiffen up.
Serve this Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus alone or with a protein. With its bright, lemony flavors, it's especially good with seafood like grilled shrimp, salmon or whitefish. See "What To Serve With Risotto" section below.
What to serve with risotto
Risotto is a rice dish that is usually served as a primo, or first course, before the main course in Italy.
Risotto can really be served as an appetizer, main course or side dish. It pairs especially well with any type of protein including chicken and beef. But this lemon risotto pairs especially well with seafood.
To round out your meal, serve a salad on the side like my Tuscan Kale and Apple Salad.
This Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. However, I don't recommend freezing because risotto doesn't freeze well. Freezing alters the texture and the risotto can become tough and grainy. You're better off storing it in the fridge and eating it over the next few days.
How to reheat risotto
The easiest way to reheat risotto is in the microwave or on the stovetop. You want to add moisture back to the leftover risotto when you reheat it. To do this, I recommend adding a little water or stock. You can also add a little butter. Then heat in the microwave for a few minutes until warm, stirring halfway through.
To reheat on the stovetop, place the leftover risotto in a nonstick skillet. Add a little water or stock (and butter if you like). Heat over medium heat, stirring the risotto as it heats up. Add more liquid as needed if risotto is still dry.
If reheating frozen risotto, I recommend defrosting it overnight in the fridge first. Then proceed with reheating instructions above.
To get the classic creamy risotto texture, you should use a starchy, short-grain Italian rice like arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano. Arborio rice is the most common type of rice used and the most readily available variety. You can find it in grocery stores, specialty stores or online.
Yes, risotto can be made with many different types of whole grains like barley, farro, quinoa, millet, and brown rice. Avoid tough grains like wheat berries or kamut as they will not soften enough. You can also make risotto with small pasta shapes like orzo. While you won't get the same creamy consistency as arborio rice, it will still be delicious. Follow the same technique that you would for traditional risotto, adding the stock in stages and stirring the grain often. Keep in mind that other grains often require a longer cooking time and more liquid than arborio rice, so be sure to have extra stock on hand.
You can top the risotto with a protein to make this dish a complete meal. Try grilled shrimp, crispy chicken thighs, salmon, lobster, sausage or even a fried egg. You can also stir many different vegetables into your risotto. I especially love risotto with roasted mushrooms or butternut squash. For extra richness, you can stir in a dollop of mascarpone cheese at the end of cooking.
Yes! Wine adds depth of flavor and acidity to risotto but you can just leave it out if you like. Fresh lemon juice adds plenty of flavor to this Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus. If you want a substitute for wine, you can try verjus, which is pressed juice made from unripened grapes. It has a sweet-tart, acidic taste and is non alcoholic.
If you have leftover risotto, you can make delicious arancini, or rice balls. To make arancini, the leftover risotto is formed into a ball and can be stuffed with various things like meat, cheese, raisins or pine nuts. Then the balls are coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. I make a lighter version that's baked in the oven instead of fried. Try my Baked Spinach and Cheese Rice Balls.
You can also make risotto fritters. Mix leftover risotto with an egg to bind it together. Then form the mixture into patties, coat them in breadcrumbs, and shallow fry them in a pan.
Yes, risotto is made with rice and is inherently gluten free. However, sometimes store-bought stock and broth may contain gluten so be sure to check the labels.
More tasty Italian recipes
Lemon Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
- 12 ounces asparagus
- 1 cup fresh or frozen spring peas
- 1 quart low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium leek, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice (or other short-grain rice like carnaroli or vialone nano)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1.25 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about ⅓ cup)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- fresh, chopped parsley for garnish
- Trim the ends from the asparagus. Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook until crisp tender, 3-4 minutes. If using fresh peas, add the peas along with the asparagus. If using frozen peas, add them during the last minute. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl of ice water. Drain the vegetables and set aside.
- Heat the stock along with 2 cups water in a large saucepan. Add the trimmings from the asparagus and leek and the parsley stems to add flavor to the stock. Bring to a simmer and then keep warm on low heat while you make the risotto.
- Heat the oil in a large, wide sauté pan. Add the leeks and garlic and season them with salt and pepper. Cook until leeks are partially softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat all of the grains with the oil. Cook 1-2 minutes to lightly toast the rice and then add the wine. Cook a few minutes until the wine is reduced, stirring occasionally.
- Add the warm stock, a few ladles at a time, stirring the rice frequently. Each time the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add some more stock. Continue adding the liquid in this manner, stirring often, to develop the starch in the rice. It should take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook once you start adding the liquid.
- When the rice is done, it will be plump and al dente- tender but still firm to the bite. At this point, lower the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, asparagus, peas, parmesan cheese, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with parsley and lemon zest. Serve risotto immediately.