“Rice pasta” is what we call risotto in our house. To our five-year-old, anything that involves pasta is instantly eatable, whereas rice is debatable (if I were to tell her we were having creamy rice for dinner I’d get a scowl, whereas when I tell her we’re having cheesy rice pasta, I get a smile or at least neutral silence, which is almost as good). And hey, isn’t risotto—even though it’s essentially rice porridge—always listed with the pastas on Italian menus anyway? Regardless of my need to justify this white lie, risotto does feel a bit like pasta, with its creamy, often cheesy texture and flavor. The creaminess comes from the starch in Arborio (or Carnaroli) rice, which is released through constant stirring. Ah, there’s the rub. While risotto isn’t hard to make, it typically requires being stationed at the stovetop for about thirty minutes, slowly adding broth to the rice while stirring. While this is fine and dandy, when you have a baby attached to your hip, the rest of dinner to prep, and lunches to make for the next day, being stuck at the stovetop isn’t a luxury to be had. Well, we’re in luck, my friends. Introducing no-stir risotto.
In this recipe, after the rice is stirred into water (ok, there is a little bit of stirring involved), it’s covered than set on the back burner to simmer on its own volition. After about fifteen minutes, the rice is perfectly tender. It looks a bit soupy at this point, but after giving it a good beat with a knob of butter, some Parmesan cheese and aromatics, it transforms into a creamy, delicious risotto. It’s not quite as creamy as a traditional recipe, but it’s nothing your friends and family will notice (and if they do, politely remind them that you just made them dinner). This version gets mixed with asparagus and peas, although you can use pretty much any seasonal vegetables you like—think roasted mushrooms, butternut squash, braised leeks… you name it. It’s delicious on its own, but to really take it over the top, I add quick roasted shrimp, which are flavored with smoked paprika, garlic, brown sugar and lemon zest. They’re slightly smoky and sweet—the perfect complement to the vibrant asparagus and peas.
This is “rice pasta” at its finest—and its easiest.
No-Stir Risotto with Asparagus & Peas
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , plus additional for seasoning
- ½- pound asparagus , woody ends removed and discarded, stalks cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup shelled garden peas or frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots (1 medium shallot)
- 1 large clove garlic , minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese , plus additional for garnish
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- Prepare an ice bath. Bring 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the asparagus and peas and cook 2-3 minutes, or until bright green and crisp tender. Using a hand strainer or slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to the ice bath (don’t drain the pot). Drain the veggies and set aside.
- Bring the pot of water back to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring, until the water comes back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cover and cook 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the olive oil, shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until tender and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a boil and reduce by half. Set aside.
- After 15 minutes, check to see if the rice is cooked. It should be tender but not mushy (it should still have a bit of a bite). It will look quite soupy at this point, but don’t worry! Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and the shallot/garlic/wine mixture. Stir until everything comes together—the risotto should be creamy and fairly loose (if you prefer your risotto on the thicker side, simmer it for a few more minutes, uncovered; if it’s too thick, add some water to thin it out). Fold in the peas, asparagus and mint. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Do Ahead: The risotto is best served immediately, but it can be made up to an hour in advance. If you make it ahead of time, don’t add the mint. Leave the pot covered at room temperature. Reheat gently, adding water to loosen as needed, and stir in the mint before serving.
Smoky Roasted Shrimp
- 1 pound small shrimp (preferably wild; 51 to 60 count), peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove , minced
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Pat the shrimp dry. Place them on the baking sheet and toss with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer and roast for 6-8 minutes, or until pink, firm and cooked through. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.