Spring Recipe: Asparagus Farro Risotto

A lot of people feel they have to give up comfort food when they transition to a healthier diet. Wrong! And it’s my personal mission to squash this myth. Most comfort foods can be made healthy (or, at least, healthier) and the truth is, some of the classic comfort foods are way healthier than you might expect.

Take risotto for example. Creamy, carby, and full of irresistible flavor. You might think that risotto is chock full of calories from heavy cream and butter. However, risotto gets its creaminess from the cooking method, not the ingredients. This makes it an excellent choice for calorie counters who are craving something decadent.

Typically, risotto is made with a high-starch, short-grain white rice. But I’m always a fan of adding more whole grains to my diet, and a risotto recipe is a perfect opportunity to experiment. Here, I use farro, which is readily available (I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s and my local supermarket) and has an incredible chewy texture once cooked.

Because we’re already into asparagus season, I couldn’t resist adding a heaping pile of these beautiful, nutrient-packed spears to my risotto. Not an asparagus fan? No worries! This recipe works well with almost any add-in. Try fresh peas, broccoli, or roasted squash—the possibilites are endless!

Asparagus Farro Risotto

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed off and spears cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Put the stock in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add in the garlic and onion and saute until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add in the farro and toss to coat and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Turn heat to high and stir in the wine, if using. Once wine has evaporated, stir in 1/4 cup of the hot broth and continue stirring until the broth has been completely absorbed.
  3. Continue adding broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until all the broth is added and the farro is tender and creamy. The broth from each addition should be completely absorbed before the next 1/4 cup is added—it should take about 20 minutes to add in all the broth. When there is about 1/2 cup of broth left, toss in the asparagus pieces and cook along with the farro.
  4. Once all the broth is added, remove risotto from heat and stir in the cheese, salt and pepper. Serve immediately topped with more Parmesan, if desired.

Nutritional Info (calculated using vegetable broth):
Serving size: about 2/3 cup. Servings per recipe: about 4.
Calories: 297; Fat: 3.5g (1.9g sat, 1.0g mono, 0.4g poly); Carbs: 48.9g (10.5g fiber, 5.6g sugars) Protein: 11.5g

What are some “comfort food” recipes that you wish could be healthier?

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!