I love the vibrancy of this dish. The lively green always brings a smile to the table bright as does the fresh and bright asparagus – a true nod to spring.
Spelt (or farro as it is known in Italy) is an ancient grain with a nutty flavour. It makes for a delicious twist on the traditional risotto and is the perfect match for the subtle grassy sweetness of British asparagus. The extra glass of white wine goes a long way to bring flavour to this dish, as does the maturity of the Grana Padano Riserva.
One bunch of asparagus
1 large shallot, finely chopped
250g pearled spelt
2 large glasses of white wine (the second glass really adds flavour here)
800ml 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
120g shelled pistachios
2 large handfuls of spinach leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large bunch basil
Zest and juice of one lemon
A good pinch of salt
100g Grana Padano Riserva, finely grated
Pistachios, roughly chopped
Grana Padano Riserva shavings
Blanch the asparagus for just two minutes, drain and refresh in cold water. Separate the pretty floret from the asparagus stem by chopping roughly an inch from the top and finely slice the stems. Set all of your chopped asparagus aside.
In a large heavy based pan heat a good glug of olive oil. Add your finely chopped shallot and cook gently for about five minutes.
Stir in the pearled spelt and cook for a further minute. Then add the wine and allow it to be absorbed before slowly beginning to add the stock a ladle at a time. Stir the speltotto every so often and only add more stock once it has nearly been absorbed. Check after 35 minutes. The spelt grains should be plump and cooked through with a little bite.
As your grains cook place just 100g of your pistachios and one large handful of spinach into a food processor. Add the basil, chopped garlic, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt and four tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse until you have a vibrant green paste.
Roughly chop the remaining pistachios.
When the spelt has cooked, add the pistachio basil paste, another large handful of spinach, the finely grated grana Padano and butter to the pan. Stir to combine before adding the chopped asparagus.
Serve the speltotto with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped pistachios, more lemon zest and a generous grating of Grana Padano.