When I think of risotto, I think of a creamy and heavy, albeit delicious, rice dish that is perfect served alongside almost any dish. Although the creaminess is still in tact in this Spring Green Risotto, the brightness from the lemon and fennel make it impeccably light. A recipe inspired by my all time favorite chef, Ina Garten, that I’ve adapted to make entirely plant-based without losing any of it’s lusciousness.
I’m always so happy when spring rolls around, not only for the warmer temperatures, but because that means it’s asparagus season! Asparagus in one of my favorite vegetables, primarily because it is a natural diuretic, so instead of bloating me the way most veggies do, it actually helps rid my body of excess water. It’s paired in this spring green risotto with peas, that despite having a short growing season freeze better than any other vegetables. Leeks are also in the mix, and the original recipe called for fresh fennel, but I’ve subbed fennel seeds in this risotto.
To be honest, when I started making this recipe last spring, it was the first time I had ever used fennel. Whenever I heard about fennel, the flavor was described as being like licorice, which made me immediately turn my nose up to it. I finally made the decision to give it a try, and then I couldn’t find it at any of my local stores, so I resorted to fennel seed. I’ve since made it both ways, and I prefer the seed variation because it provides little bursts of flavor! Plus, fennel seeds are a great digestive aid, often chewed after dinner to eliminate indigestion and prevent bad breath. Fennel is also a rich source of potassium, a vital nutrient to reduce blood pressure, and extremely important for athletes as it is an essential mineral for muscle contraction.
Next on our ingredient list are leeks and chives, which are used to create incredible flavor, while also providing antioxidants that help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. This is the result of the sulfur containing compounds found in allium vegetables (the onion and garlic family). Leeks specifically contain allicin, a compound that once digested in the body produces sulfenic acid, a substance that is known to neutralize disease causing free radicals faster than any other compound.
As with most risottos, Ina’s original version of Spring Green Risotto calls for a significant amount of cheese. The gradual cooking method of a risotto creates its signature velvety texture, and the cheese enhances this while also tying together the flavor with its saltiness. However, I have found if your ingredients are flavorful enough, you won’t miss the cheese at all. But, to replace a bit of the creaminess, I recommend topping with avocado slices, to create that natural buttery taste and consistency. I also found I absolutely LOVED it topped with my pine nut parmesan, adding the signature saltiness of traditional parmesan. You should absolutely top it with at least one of these options, but I recommend both because…more is more 🙂
I know it can be scary to try new spices, trust me, it took me a long time to try fennel! But once I finally took the plunge, as I did in this recipe, I found a new flavor I love, which adds variety to my meals, preventing me from getting bored in my healthy eating routine. I recommend you do the same- you never know what you’re missing until you try it! Broaden your horizons and add this lush and chewy Spring Green Risotto to your recipe rotation this season.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
Spring Green Risotto
Creamy and decadent Spring Green Risotto, made impeccably light by the brightness of lemon and bite of fennel. This is an absolute must this season!
- 2T olive oil
- 3 large leeks (~4 cups) - white and light green parts only, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice - could sub Farro for a whole grain alternative
- 2/3 cup white wine
- 4-5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 lb asparagus - preferably thin
- 10 oz bag frozen peas
- 1T fresh grated lemon zest - heaping, from 2 large lemons
- 1-3 tsps sea salt - to taste
- black pepper - to taste
- 2T fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup chives - minced
- avocado - for serving
- pine nut parmesan - for serving
- Pine Nut Parmesn
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 2T nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- If using pine nut parmesan, place all of the ingredients in a small processor and grind until it becomes "dust", being careful to stop before it becomes a paste. This can be done 5-7 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel seed, sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the leeks are tender and fennel is fragrant. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables and oil.
- Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the veggie stock, 1- 1.5 cups at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2-inch pieces and discard the tough ends. Heat a medium skillet with a dash of olive oil, and sauté 5-7 minutes until lightly tender.
- When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes (approximately before the third addition of broth) add the asparagus, peas, lemon zest, 1 tsp sea salt, and black pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
- When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, top with fresh chives, fresh avocado, pine nut parmesan, and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!