I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.
BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!
The crazier life gets, the more I am won over by the versatility and ease of risotto. It’s serious comfort food, endlessly adaptable and an old standby that can be pulled together last minute with ingredients I almost always have in my pantry (arborio rice, chicken stock, an onion, a hunk of parmegiano reggiano) and jazzed up with a few bits of whatever else is around. While stove-side stirring is required, it somehow feels less stressful than recipes that require a lot of chopping or ingredients…. or thinking!
Before I get to some notes on risotto, here are three of our favorite variations:
- Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Peas — Some Diced Roast Chicken or Sauteed Shrimp Would Be Nice!
- Crumbled Sausage; a Can of Crushed Tomatoes Mixed with Broth for the Cooking Liquid; Fresh Spinach for Garnish (chiffonade)
- Roasted Garlic; Toasted Sliced Almonds & a Dollop of Mascarpone (gotta give credit to Jamie Oliver for this one. Here’s his recipe)
Stacie’s Risotto Crib Sheet:
- Bring your stock to a simmer (you’ll need ~2.5 cups for every cup of uncooked arborio rice). [Since I had some asparagus I wanted to use up, I just trimmed it and blanched it right in the stock for 2-3 minutes until tender crisp, then set it aside.]
- Saute some finely diced onion and celery in olive oil until softened. Add the uncooked arborio rice to the pan and saute for several minutes until it starts looking less chalky and more translucent.
- If you have some available, add a splash of white wine (1/2 cup or so) and let it completely absorb before starting to add the stock (if you don’t have any, you can skip it without sacrificing too much). Then, start adding the warm stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed between each addition. My Italian cooking guru Marcella Hazan says to start checking the rice for done-ness after about 20 minutes.
- When you’re getting close to your preferred done-ness, add your goodies [in this case the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1.5 lemons, a handful of frozen peas which I didn’t bother defrosting].
- Off heat stir in a generous amount of grated parmeggiano and a little pat of butter if it strikes your fancy. Taste taste taste and correct your seasonings. [I scattered my blanched asparagus on top. For a little zip, I also garnished with some finely chopped chives, crispy fried sage leaves (nice for texture and takes the intensity way down), a little squeeze of lemon and drizzle of good olive oil.]
Unfortunately, my little one objects to most green foods lately and picked around the peas & asparagus with determination– even after we made happy face bites on our forks — but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dinner of creamy, lemony, comfort food yumminess which we enjoyed with some crispy fish fillets and sauteed asparagus. Yum yum good!