What is the taste of Spring for you? Here, the local markets are now heaving with all sorts of young vegetables including podded peas (piselli), broad peans (fave), runner beans (fagioli rampicanti), asparagus (asparagi) and courgettes (zucchini) with their delicate flowers still attached. Despite the terrible weather in Naples, spring is in the air.
In honour of Primavera, and to use as many of these lovely fresh vegetables in an Italian dish as possible, here is one of our favourite recipes, taken from the first River Cafe cookbook: Risotto Primavera:
225g (8oz) each of asparagus, peas, beans and zucchini
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 litre (1.75 pints) of chicken stock
1 medium red onion, peeled and freshly chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
300g (10oz) risotto rice
75ml (2.5 fl oz) extra dry white vermouth
100g (4oz) butter 175g (6oz)
Parmesan, freshly grated
Cut off the tips of the asparagus, and chop the spears and the beans into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Pod the peas.
Cut the zucchini, lengthways into four, and slice to the same size and the beans. Take half the vegetables, and blanch in plenty of boiling salted water.
Heat the chicken stock and check for seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan cook the onion in the olive oil until soft and not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes to coat completely with oil. Add enough hot stock to cover the rice and cook gently, adding more stock as it is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.
After about 10 minutes, add the uncooked vegetables, stir, and add more stock. Cook for another 5 minutes. Pour in the vermouth and stir, then add the blanched vegetables, the butter and the cheese, taking care not to over stir.
The risotto should be moist and creamy. Check the seasoning and serve with more grated Parmesan. Delicious!
Picture via Sara at Flickr.