Asparagus risotto with lemon, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese is the spring risotto recipe you didn’t know you needed! It's bright, citrusy, and tastes like sunshine in every bite.

An overhead photo of asparagus risotto topped with parmesan and dill in a skillet. Next to this are small bowls of dill and pepper, a plate with a block of parmesan cheese, and a plate with lemon wedges.
Photo Credits: Mark Beahm

In the spring, stalks of purple and green asparagus push through winter’s cold garden soil and grace my family with the first signs that winter is ending and relief from snowy days is near.

When this happens, I am known to make asparagus omelets for breakfast, endless batches of toast smeared with lemony goat cheese and topped with pieces of asparagus for lunch, then follow it up with Asparagus Risotto for dinner. I make no apologies for loving these tender stalks and the fickle spring weather makes risotto the perfect recipe. Spring risotto is like sunshine in winter—a bright light in a dreary sky. 

Asparagus risotto is hearty, but not heavy, and marries with any fresh herbs you have around – dill, thyme, and chives (also a spring-time wonder) are a few of my favorites. All you need is a bit of lemon, a touch of parmesan cheese, and patience to bring it all together. I often serve this spring risotto recipe as a vegetarian main dish, but I’ve been known to use it as a side dish and pair it with Whole Roasted Chicken, or top it with a piece of fish like Lemony Broiled Salmon.

When the asparagus languishes, and mushrooms arrive to take its place, Mushroom Risotto (sometimes with added asparagus) takes over, and in the fall Butternut Squash Risotto assumes its rightful place. 

Like all risotto recipes, Asparagus risotto requires a little time to reach creamy perfection, but that’s also the essence of spring—good things come to those who wait. 

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for this Asparagus Risotto Recipe
  2. How to Make Asparagus Risotto 
  3. Tips for Buying Asparagus
  4. What to Serve with Asparagus Risotto 
  5. More Risotto Recipes 
  6. Asparagus Risotto Recipe
Ingredients for asparagus risotto including asparagus, arborio rice, chicken stock, olive oil, onion, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, parmesan cheese, and dill.

Ingredients for this Asparagus Risotto Recipe

Most of the ingredients in this spring risotto recipe can be found in your pantry. Just make a quick trip to your garden, farmers market, or local grocery store for the vegetables. 

  • Chicken stock: I make homemade chicken stock monthly. It's how I get the most out of the roasted chicken I make to feed the hungry teens in my house. I prefer the flavor of homemade stock (vegetable stock included). And I can also control the salt content. However, store-bought stock will also work. When I do purchase stock, my favorite brand is Kitchen Basics. It's the closest to homemade in my opinion.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with polyphenols (antioxidants), which is why quality olive oil can have a peppery finish. It's also why olive oil is the cooking oil of choice here at The Mediterranean Dish.
  • Yellow onion: Yellow onions are a kitchen workhorse, however, white onions will also do a fine job. 
  • Asparagus: Check the ends to make sure they aren’t woody. If they are trim them. Asparagus can be tender no matter the size, so don’t be afraid of large, thick stalks at your local farmers market, sometimes those are the most flavorful–they're perfect for Asparagus Soup as well. However, if your asparagus is really thick you might need to slice it in half vertically before chopping it.
  • Garlic cloves: The subtle spice of garlic pairs beautifully with the gentle sweetness of the onion, and the sweet flavor of asparagus and herbs. You might think, four cloves of garlic is a lot, but it helps this spring risotto sing.  
  • Lemon: Both the zest and the juice. So often a recipe is finished but it needs to awaken. The way to do this add acid like lemon juice! Acid makes other flavors come alive.
  • Fresh Herbs: Use dill, thyme, or chives in this recipe. All work beautifully with risotto and asparagus.
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt: Salt plays a similar role to acid. It enhances the other flavors in the recipe. Think of it as a culinary spotlight. And pepper, well, pepper has that subtle heat we all know and love so well. 
  • Arborio or carnaroli rice: Arborio is pretty easy to find in most well-stocked grocery stores. The grain is not quite as starchy as other rice varieties used for making risotto, but it’s a great middle-of-the-road rice and easy to find. Carnaroli is the crème de la crème of risotto rice, however, you will likely have to order it online or visit a specialty grocer to find it. 
  • Parmesan cheese: Many people think risotto has milk or heavy cream in it, but the only dairy is cheese. All the creaminess comes from the starch in the rice, and just a little bit of finely grated parmesan. I prefer to buy parmesan in the blocks and grate it myself on a microplane zester for light fluffy cheese that melts well into the rice. 
An overhead photo of a serving of asparagus in a bowl next to a fork on a cloth napkin and small bowls of dill and pepper and a glass of wine.

How to Make Asparagus Risotto 

The secret to a good risotto is simply to have the patience to stir it so you release the starches from the rice. That’s it! 

  • Warm the stock: When making this asparagus risotto recipe (or any risotto for that matter) it's important to warm the stock. It helps release the starches in the rice. Set a small pan over medium-low heat and add 6 cups of stock. Let it warm while you prepare the other ingredients. You don’t want it to boil. Just keep it warm—just below a simmer is the sweet spot.
  • Saute the asparagus: Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the 1 small diced onion, 1 pound of asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring around occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and saute for 2 to 3 more minutes The asparagus should become a bright green color. Transfer to a plate.An overhead photo of asparagus, diced onion, garlic, salt, nutmeg and pepper being sauteed in a skillet with a wooden spoon. Next to this is half of a juiced lemon.
  • Make the risotto: Return the skillet to the stove and set over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once it shimmers add 1 ½ cups rice and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Ladle about ¾ cup of warm stock into the pan with the rice and stir. Reduce the heat to medium. Let all of the liquid absorb and plump the rice before adding more stock. Add ½ teaspoon of salt along with an additional ¾ cup of stock. Stir regularly while the stock absorbs. Keep adding stock a little at a time, stirring continuously until all of the stock has been used up, and the rice is creamy and al dente, this process will take about 25 minutes. When ready the stock should be mostly absorbed, but still look wet, and creamy. You don’t want risotto to look like wet clumpy rice.An overhead photo risotto cooking in a skillet with a wooden spoon. Next to this is a bowl of shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Finish and serve: Remove from heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Fold the asparagus into the risotto. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh dill and the lemon zest. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Divide into 4 warmed bowls, top with more fresh herbs and lemon zest if you want to and serve!An overhead photo of asparagus risotto topped with parmesan and dill in a skillet. Next to this are small bowls of dill and pepper, a plate with a block of parmesan cheese, and a plate with lemon wedges.

Tips for Buying Asparagus

I’ve grown asparagus in my garden for about a decade now, and prior to that I would forage it in the countryside with my father-in-law. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about this harbinger of spring. 

  • Look for asparagus spears with tight tips. They shouldn’t look dehydrated or withered. 
  • If buying asparagus at the supermarket, look for spears stored in ice or in refrigerated sections rather than room temperature bins. Refrigeration slows the process of the plant converting its sugars to starch, which can yield tough, woody spears. Woody asparagus is caused by two things: really old plants, or the asparagus has lost moisture from improper storage, excessive storage, and lack of moisture and as a result has begun to convert its sugar to starch. This actually happens faster in thinner spears.
  • Thick doesn’t mean woody. Believe it or not, you have asparagus grow as thick as a quarter is round and it will be tender all the way through. Young plants produce thin asparagus and mature plants thick asparagus. Plants past their prime produce woody asparagus.
  • Should you have woody spears, trim them with a knife. I don't recommend snapping the ends, as it can result in removing healthy, tender parts of the spear. 
A close up of asparagus risotto topped with parmesan and dill in a skillet.

What to Serve with Asparagus Risotto 

Risotto can be simple and rustic or dressed up for a dinner party. If you want to keep things simple add an easy salad like this Kale Salad or continue the celebration of spring with this Pea Salad with Radish and Mint.

When it comes to adding more heft to this asparagus risotto recipe, protein usually does the job. Try spooning the risotto in the center of a plate, and placing a piece of Lemony Chicken Breast or Baked Sole right on top.

More Risotto Recipes 

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5 from 3 votes

Asparagus Risotto

Summer Miller
An overhead photo of asparagus risotto topped with parmesan and dill in a skillet. Next to this are small bowls of dill and pepper, a plate with a block of parmesan cheese, and a plate with lemon wedges.
Asparagus risotto with lemon, fresh herbs and parmesan cheese is the spring risotto recipe you didn’t know you needed. Use thick or thin stalks. If you use thick stalks you might need to add another minute or two for cook time.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 50 minutes
Total – 1 hour
Cuisine:
Italian/Mediterranean
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped dill, plus more for garnish (or 1 ½ teaspoons dried)

Instructions
 

  • Warm the stock: Set a small pan over medium-low heat and add the stock. Let it warm while you prepare the other ingredients. You don’t want it to boil. Just keep it warm—just below a simmer is the sweet spot.
  • Saute the Asparagus: Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the diced onion, asparagus, garlic, pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring around occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and saute for 2 to 3 more minutes. The asparagus should become a bright green color. Transfer to a plate.
  • Make the risotto: Return the skillet to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once it shimmers add the rice and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Ladle about ¾ cup of warm stock into the pan with the rice and stir. Reduce the heat to medium. Let all of the liquid absorb and plump the rice before adding more stock. Add ½ teaspoon of salt along with an additional ¾ cup of stock. Stir regularly while the stock absorbs. Keep adding stock a little at a time, stirring continuously until all of the stock has been used up, and the rice is creamy and al dente, this process will take about 25 minutes. When ready the stock should be mostly absorbed, but still look wet, and creamy. You don’t want risotto to look like wet clumpy rice.
  • Finish and serve: Remove from heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Fold the asparagus into the risotto. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh dill (or other herbs) and the lemon zest. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Divide into 4 warmed bowls, top with more fresh herbs and lemon zest if you want to and serve!

Notes

  • If using really thick or really thin asparagus stalks you may need to adjust the cook time for the asparagus by a minute or two on either side.
  • I use unsalted or low-sodium chicken stock when I cook. If your stock has a lot of salt in it already you might need to adjust the added salt in this recipe. 
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 342.2kcalCarbohydrates: 49.7gProtein: 13.1gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6.5gCholesterol: 5.7mgSodium: 789.3mgPotassium: 462.3mgFiber: 3.9gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 641.6IUVitamin C: 15.8mgCalcium: 141.1mgIron: 4.5mg
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Summer Miller is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and an IACP finalist in essay writing and memoir. Her recipes, food writing, and editing chops span both print and digital media. You can find her work at Simply Recipes, Eating Well, Saveur, Bon Appétit, and the Kitchn among others. She is the Senior Executive Editor at The Mediterranean Dish.
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Comments

  1. Made this last evening. Prepped everything as per directions. the only thing that I didn't have was dill, fresh or dried.
    I was really disappointed .
    Top with more lemon zest? No way. The only thing that could be tasted in this dish was lemon. Nothing else could be noted.

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks for this great recipe. We eat shrimp quite often in paella (husband from Spain). What a great way to savor it in another distinctive, tasteful way! I also added mushrooms we had on hand!

  3. 5 stars
    This is sooooooo good! Never tried to make risotto before. It was super easy to do and delicious! Thanks again for another great recipe!