In my opinion the best thing about risotto is you can literally tailor it to any craving you have, or to any season. Once you have a good base recipe (like this one!), the opportunities are really endless. I was craving risotto recently and knew I wanted to incorporate the best spring flavors, but wasn't totally sure where to start. Peas are a spring staple, but they've never been my thing. Protein in risotto can be hit or miss, as I love when risotto is nice and cohesive, and that can throw things off. And of course, some type of acidity is necessary, but it must pair with everything else.
While it seemed like a tall task, once I stumbled upon this combination I knew it would be a spring winner. It all started with my disapproval of peas. I knew this risotto needed another bright green accompaniment, and I've always loved broccolini, so it seemed perfect. You'll start by cutting the tough ends of the broccolini stems off, and then cutting the remaining stems and heads into inch-long pieces. We'll blanch these quickly so they turn extra green, which will look pretty in the risotto with a basically effortless step.
After that you can go ahead and get going on your risotto. Even though it may take a little extra time, it actually should come together in roughly 25 minutes and it is always SO worth it. Plus, you get a little arm workout in with the stirring. Also, if I haven't convinced you yet, your free non-stirring hand is totally available to hold a nice glass of white wine to enjoy while you stir.
This risotto also has the simplest "add-ins", so while the risotto itself is a little hands on, once the base and the broccolini are cooked there is no other cooking involved and you can toss everything right in.
In my mind when I think of spring I automatically think of ham, and it seemed like the perfect "bite-sized" protein, so I knew I wanted to include some here. While you can use leftover ham you may have from actually cooking a ham in the oven, I find that ham from the deli works perfectly fine here and there are always lots of good options at most grocery stores. For the cheese, we're using gruyere, which is honestly up there with being one of the best cheeses in my opinion. Plus, ham and gruyere are made for each other, so it's really fate.
Once your risotto is cooked but still pourable, it's as easy as stirring in the cheese, broccolini, and ham. While this will already be packed with flavor, nothing brightens a dish up like lemon zest and every risotto could use a bit of acidity, so make sure to sprinkle your finished product with at least a little. Plus, it makes this extra colorful which is no trivial feat.
While they can be strong on their own, I also found some very thinly chopped chives to be perfect on top as well. You can add as many or as few as you like, and if you don't like chives, a little thyme would also work great.
Sprinkle on some extra shredded or shaved gruyere, and enjoy this springy risotto! A comforting dinner that still has all the spring bright flavors that we're all starting to crave this time of year.
Not sure that anything could scream spring has sprung quite like a pink, green and yellow dish, so get excited for summer days to come and eat up!
A spring risotto dinner that is warm enough for cooler spring nights, bright enough with green veggies and lemon, and satisfying enough with ham and the best cheese.
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