Food in Tuscany is dictated by the seasons, constantly changing according to what the landscape presents.
In Tuscany right now, for those in the know, it is possible to find wild asparagus growing in the stunning surrounds.
There is nothing like putting on your all-weather boots, and heading out for some walking (and foraging) through the countryside to search for wild asparagus spearing up out of the Tuscan terrain. These hidden treasures grow thinner and less uniformly than the usual store-bought variety. They are a little more flavoursome than the store-bought asparagus.
There are also certain fruit and vegetable stores in Florence where these gastronomic delights can be bought, where the local farmers and foragers bring their wares to be sold on to locals to make deliciously simple Tuscan recipes.
Some of our favourite Tuscan wild asparagus recipes include wild asparagus frittata, spaghetti with wild asparagus, or a simple side-dish of steamed wild asparagus drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and, if you like, a squeeze of lemon.
Here however is one of our favourite wild asparagus recipes, wild asparagus risotto…
Risotto agli asparagi selvatici
(Wild Asparagus Risotto Recipe)
Serves 4 people
350 g rice
1 clove garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
1 glass white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick celery
2 bay leaves
2 litres water
Grated parmesan cheese
Cut and peel a medium onion in half and in a non-stick pan, let it slightly burn on both sides. This brings out a great flavour in the stock you’ll be making.
To make your vegetable stock, take a large pot and fill it with cold water. Into the pot, throw in some roughly chopped carrot, celery and the burnt onion. A handful of salt (rock salt is best), a bay leaf and some pepper corns go in there too (keep count of how many pepper corns you toss in there).
(Side note: If you cop and tail the carrots, peel the onion and clean up the celery, you can strain them out later on and puree them for a delicious vegetable soup. Keeping count of the pepper corns means you can fish them all out and not get any peppery surprises in your soup!)
Bring to the boil and let simmer for a good half an hour until you have a quite flavoursome stock.
Clean the asparagus and remove the hard parts of the base by snapping them off. Wash the asparagus thoroughly and cut into small pieces.
Next, in a large heavy-bottomed pan, pour in some extra-virgin olive oil in which you will need to brown a clove of garlic. As soon as the garlic turns golden in colour, remove it from the oil and throw in the asparagus.
(Tips tip: keep the tips of the spears aside and add them in a little later so they maintain their pointy form a little better during the cooking process.)
Let the asparagus cook for around 5 minutes over a low heat. If they look like they are sticking, pour in a dash of wine.
Pour in Arborio rice (or alternative risotto rice) and let it toast for a few minutes. Then pour in the white wine and stir. Once the alcohol has burned off, start ladling in the (strained) stock, a little at a time as it evaporates, stirring regularly.
Just as the rice is nearing al dente, add in a handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir through, then remove from the heat just as the risotto is perfectly al dente and serve hot.
To learn to make delicious, typical Italian recipes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.