Tag Archives: asparagus

Springing into Spring with Tortellini and Spring Vegetables

Last weekend, the weather was perfect. Beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds, and temperatures in the 70s. It was great. The weather got everyone excited for spring, including me. And when I think of spring, I think of spring food…and spring veggies.

This recipe combines one of my favorite pastas, tortellini, with peas, asparagus, and onions, sautéed in delicious bacon grease. Finished off with a little 1/2 and 1/2 and some Parmigiano cheese, it’s perfect! The bacon and vegetables are crisp, the sauce is rich and creamy, and the tortellini are the perfect cheesy carriers for this deliciousness!

Chop 6 strips bacon into thin, small strips. Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven over medium low heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. I use the lid for this process so the bacon doesn’t splatter everywhere. Once the bacon is crisp, remove to a plate, but keep the bacon fat in the pot on the heat.baconslicedcookingcookedChop 1 medium onion. Cook in the bacon fat until golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Add to the onion, and cook for another minute.chopped onioncooking onioncooked oniongarliccookedMeanwhile, set a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil. Chop 1 lb asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus. Blanch for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl. I do this instead of draining with a colander because that way you can use the same water for the pasta.

water boilingasparagusblanchingblanched asparagusAdd the asparagus and 1 lb peas to the onion mixture. I used frozen peas, but if you can get fresh, go for it. I don’t find a huge difference in flavor, so if you can’t, frozen works. Cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup dry wine. I didn’t have any white open, so I used red. The flavor stays the same, it just adds a slight pink to the sauce. 🙂 Simmer the wine for a few minutes until reduced some, then add 1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Bring to a boil and boil for a few more minutes until creamy and thoroughly combined.adding asparagusadding peasadding winesimmering wineadding 1/2 and 1/2almost readyIn that reserved water, cook 2 lbs tortellini according the package directions. Once cooked and drained, add to the sauce along with the bacon. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese. Roll up 10 basil leaves and thinly slice into ribbons. Add to the pasta and enjoy!cooked tortelliniadding tortelliniadding baconadding cheesebasil leavesslicedadding basilall readyAlthough I don’t know if I mentioned it sooner, pasta is my one of my favorite meals. It’s no wonder I turn to this recipe when spring has sprung! 🙂

A Comforting Spring Risotto!

IngredientsSeveral years ago, I discovered risottos.  I hadn’t really ever had them or made them before until I had a delicious spinach and crab risotto while down the shore (I’ll share the recipe some day).  I was hooked after the first bite.  It was creamy and warm and comforting, with the rice having a slight bite still.  The flavors meld together beautifully, and it was the perfect vehicle for fresh spinach and sweet crab.  I had heard it was difficult to make, but after having that first dish, I started to research just how difficult.  What I found was it’s really easy, just takes some time because you want to slowly incorporate the liquid into the rice to keep a creamy consistency.  And, even better, after making risotto several times and experimenting with flavors, I have found you can put almost anything in it, and it still turns out great.  This time of year, it’s perfect with spring vegetables!

StockFor my spring risotto, I use asparagus, peas, and lemon zest, however, you can use the basic risotto recipe and add really any flavor you like.  To make a basic risotto, start by heating 8 cups chicken stock until it begins to simmer.  You’re going to use this to add to the risotto, and it will cook much quicker if you’re adding warm stock instead of cold.  Keep the stock warming on the stove while you prepare the rest.

OnionsTake 1 1/2 onions, chopped (about 2 cups), and saute in 3 tablespoons olive oil.  When I made the risotto this time, I had some duck fat left over from a recipe, so I used 3 tablespoons of that, which smelled and tasted amazing, however, olive oil certainly works. And this recipe makes a good bit of risotto, so you want a fairly large saute pan, or, just use a stock pot.  I started with a saute pan this time but realized I was running out of room and switched to the stock pot! 🙂

You want to cook the onions over medium heat until they soften and brown.  This will take several minutes.  Once they are nice and soft, add 3 garlic cloves, minced.  Cook that for just a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Then, add 2 cups arborio rice.

ArborioLet me just take a detour for a moment to discuss arborio rice.  If you aren’t familiar, arborio is an Italian rice that has more starch, and, because you’re making risotto, it’s perfect to get that creamy consistency.  As the rice cooks, the liquid absorbs some of the starch and becomes very creamy.  I suggest using arborio if you can.  I have made risotto for some health conscious friends using brown rice, and it really wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t get the true creamy consistency that arborio will.  However, if you prefer brown rice, go for it.

Rice and WineOk, back to the recipe.  Add the rice and stir to be sure every grain of rice gets coated with the oil.  Toast the rice for a few minutes.  Next, add 1 cup white wine.  The rice will quickly absorb the wine, and you’re ready for the slow process of incorporating the stock.  Add the stock, about 1 cup at a time, and stir.  You don’t want to start adding the next cup until the first cup is mostly absorbed.  And, you’ll want to stir often to make sure the risotto doesn’t burn or stick to the pan, but also to make sure the stock is evenly absorbed.

Adding LiquidContinue adding stock and cooking until all of the stock is absorbed.  It will probably take about 45 minutes.  Taste the risotto.  At this point it should be tender and creamy, but not mushy.  Add 1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese.  At this point you have a delicious risotto, however, we’re making spring risotto…

Chop 1 bunch asparagus into 1 inch pieces.  Blanch them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until tender.  I add them back to the pot and fill it with cold tap water to stop the cooking, then drain.  You can do this step up to a day before and just keep the cooked Finishedasparagus in the refrigerator.  Add the cooked asparagus to the risotto along with 8 oz frozen peas (I know, I know, it’s spring risotto, and I’m telling you to use froze peas, but I never really use fresh…frozen are just as good and I add them right from the freezer), and the zest of 1 lemon. Allow everything to warm through, and you have a delicious side dish, or even meal in itself, perfect for these spring evenings!

Lemon and Parm