The One Thing I Make All Spring Long

My favorite way to celebrate spring also happens to be a weeknight wonder.

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Photo by: Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

As soon as I start to see tulip leaves popping through the ground, I know that the worst of winter is over and immediately start craving the bright and fresh produce that comes with spring. But then the reality sets in that warmer temps don't appear overnight (in the Northeast at least), and it's still winter-jacket weather. Enter the best of both worlds: Ina's Spring Green Risotto.

Ina's seasonal take on the classic dish features leeks, asparagus and peas, bringing me all of the springy green feels that I need at the start of the season, but the creamy risotto portion is cozy and comforting enough to warm me up from the inside-out.

Risotto is one of those dishes that you can make and people will automatically assume you're a pro in the kitchen. But here's a little secret: It's actually one of the easiest weeknight dinners to whip up when you want nothing to do with cooking. Yes, you do have to hang around and stir the pot, but it's honestly a very relaxing motion that only requires one hand (leaving your other hand free and ready for a glass of wine). The best part? There's usually just one pot to clean up after you're done.

And, as long as you follow a few basic rules, you can fudge the rest depending what you have on hand. I mean, you can even substitute rice with other pantry staples like oats, farro or even barley. Use butter (or olive oil or coconut oil or ghee) to toast the Arborio rice. Use heated chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water) a ladle-full at a time to make sure you're not over-hydrating it. Then, finish it off with something creamy; Ina uses mascarpone in this particular version, but I've used sour cream, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or even leftover goat cheese. There's (almost) no wrong combination.

While you can serve risotto as a side dish, I end up making it the star of menu. Depending on my level of adulting on a given day, I'll eat it on its own with extra cheesy goodness or toss some veggies in — think quick-cooking options like baby spinach or frozen peas — and add a fried egg over the top. If I want to really show off, I'll pick up some scallops and quickly sear them when the risotto is just about cooked, right around the same time I'm adding in something creamy.

It's quick, low-maintenance and essentially a hug in a bowl. Plus, as Ina says, "Just turn on some good music, pour a glass of wine and unwind as you stir." When the queen says to have a glass of wine and relax? You do.

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