Spring is here, and it’s time to celebrate by adding a little freshness and lightness to your favorite year-round dishes, such as risottos and pasta. Primavera means springtime in Italian, but pasta primavera, while Italian in name, has American roots. It was created in the ’70s in the famous New York restaurant Le Cirque, and it embraces the season with fresh vegetables and herbs enveloped in a lemony cream sauce. This risotto takes inspiration from pasta primavera, with fresh asparagus and peas studding the rice, along with sweet briny shrimp and juicy Meyer lemon.
When making risotto, remember these simple but important rules for best results. Always purchase arborio rice, which is known for its high starch content. The starch will be “agitated” while stirring the rice, which yields a delicious creamy risotto. The rice grains should be lightly toasted in the pan before adding any liquid. This step protects the grains from bursting while cooking. And be sure to stir the risotto constantly — or nearly constantly — while cooking to prevent it from sticking and to help the rice release its starch.
This recipe specifies fresh shelled peas, but defrosted frozen peas may be substituted. If using defrosted frozen peas, do not include them when cooking the asparagus. Instead, add them to the risotto at the end of cooking along with the cooked asparagus and shrimp.
Shrimp Risotto Primavera
Active Time: about 45 minutes
Total Time: about 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
6 cups chicken stock
3/4 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup fresh shelled peas
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon dill sprigs
1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the asparagus and peas; cook until the vegetables brighten in color and are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process (they will cook further in the risotto). Set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet. Add the shrimp and lightly season with salt and black pepper.
Cook until just cooked through, about 4 minutes, turning once. Transfer to another plate.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a separate deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute until the onion is soft and translucent without coloring, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until it is well coated and lightly toasted, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute more.
Add 1 cup stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, until the rice is al dente and the risotto is creamy. (Depending on the age of the rice, you may not use all of the stock. Older rice requires more liquid to cook.)
During the last minute or two of cooking, stir in the asparagus, peas and shrimp to warm through.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, lemon juice, parsley, dill and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon zest and additional dill or parsley, if desired.