Risotto with Asparagus, Shrimp and Porcini Mushrooms

Ah, Italia. The flavors of Italy in the spring ... arborio rice, roasted shrimp and asparagus, and a hint of lemon zest to brighten it all up ... topped with parmesan cheese, of course.  One of the best taste combinations since Caesar Cardini tossed a few anchovies into a salad back in the day.

So if you are like most cooks I know, the rigors of making risotto from scratch isn't on your Top 10. Mostly, because everything else in the kitchen comes to a screeching halt, while you add broth and stir, add broth and stir, add broth and stir ...

And if you are intimidated by anything other than a plain old white button mushroom, it's time you tried the magnificent porcini.

This recipe takes care of all that by using a packaged risotto, complete with funghi porcini ... about the best we've tried.  You can find it on your local grocer's shelves, where rice is sold. And here: http://www.vigo-alessi.com/products/itemView.php?id=78.

For extra depth and flavor, we roasted the shrimp and asapargus in the oven separately, then added them to the cooked risotto, with the zest of one lemon. A dash of grated Parmesan at table side is all you need to complete this one-pot (minimal clean-up!), delectable entrée.

Number of servings: 3-4
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes
Level: Easy

One package Vigo Alessi Imported Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed, with tough ends removed
1 lb. fresh shrimp
Zest of one lemon
2 tsp. grated parmesan (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 400F.
1. Place asparagus spears on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and one tablespoon of the olive oil. Using hands, mix to combine thoroughly. Arrange asparagus in single layer. Roast in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Raise oven temperature to 425F.
2. On the same baking sheet, mix shrimp, minced garlic, one tablespoon of olive oil using hands, to combine thoroughly. Roast shrimp for 10 minutes.

3. In a heavy saucepan, follow package instructions for making risotto.
4. While risotto is cooking, cut the asparagus spears into 2" pieces, and zest the lemon. Set aside.
5. When risotto is ready (18 minutes), remove from heat. Stir in the shrimp, asparagus and lemon zest.

6. At table side, dust with grated or shaved parmesan. Serve with a salad and a nice dry white Italian wine, like a Pinot Grigio or Frascati. Buon appetito!