Courtesy of Rita Held Asparagus and lemon peel make this risotto a bright spring meal.

The cooking method for my asparagus risotto recipe is not traditional, but even without constant stirring, the result is excellent. Traditional risotto is very creamy, and the rice is firm to the bite. You'll find the rice continues to absorb liquid as it sits after cooking.

The flavors of grated cheeses vary – start with 1/3 cup, then add more if desired. Many of the other ingredients also can be varied to taste or convenience – in place of asparagus, use 2 cups fresh peas or thawed frozen peas. If you have mild white wine on hand, use that with a pinch of salt in lieu of the cooking wine.

Serve risotto as a main dish (four servings) or as a side dish (approximately eight servings), and you can halve the following recipe using a 4-quart saucepan.

Asparagus Risotto

• 1 pound asparagus spears

• 1 cup diced ham (optional)

• 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

• 1 cup white cooking wine*

• 2 tablespoons butter

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 small onion, chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 cups Arborio rice

• 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (optional)

• 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or sage

• 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Wash asparagus and break off tough ends. Cut spears into 1- or 2-inch pieces; set aside. Measure ham; set aside. Combine chicken broth and cooking wine; warm up in microwave.

In 6-quart pot, melt butter with olive oil. Add onion, garlic and rice. Over medium-high heat, cook and stir 3-4 minutes; do not brown. Stir in warm broth and cooking wine. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. No need to stir.

Stir in asparagus, ham, lemon peel and marjoram or sage. Continue to cook, covered, on medium heat, 3-4 minutes. Taste rice to ensure it does not overcook. Rice should be al dente and rather soupy. Stir in cheese. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

If desired, sprinkle with additional cheese and serve with a side salad.

Rita Held is a Los Altos resident.