Something pretty amazing happened. I think I may have been changed forever.
I forgot to put the cheese in my risotto. If you know this blog well, you might realise just how major this is. If you haven't been reading for long... well, this is a big thing. I'm slightly addicted to cheese. It wasn't until I was halfway through my meal (enjoying every bite, I might add) that I realised I hadn't put the cheese on top. Honestly, it was just as good without - and this means a lot, coming from a person who usually thinks that the main reason for having rice in a risotto is so that you can get the cheesy, creamy sauce into your mouth with slightly less shame than just eating it with a spoon.
So. What I'm trying to say is, the parmesan in this dish is totally optional. If I can enjoy a risotto with no cheese, so can you - and your heart and waistline might thank you too.
I'd never made an oven-baked risotto before this one. It was pretty easy. Honestly, if I was making my usual mushroom risotto or something similar in the future (roasted butternut squash and sage, anyone?), I'd probably do it the normal way, since I actually find it quite therapeutic to be alone with my thoughts for half an hour, mindlessly stirring. However, with this particular dish, there was a definite advantage to cooking it in the oven (besides the fact that I could go and put my feet up while it was cooking) - the gorgeous roasted asparagus and juicy roasted tomatoes that you end up with on top. You can't beat a bit of roasted veg.
If you do decide to go down the non-vegan route, you can either sprinkle the grated parmesan over each individual plate after serving, or you can add it to the top of the baking dish for the final 10 minutes of cooking to get it nice and crispy. But whether you include it or not, this is a seriously tasty risotto.
Oven-baked asparagus risotto with cherry tomatoes
Recipe barely adapted from BBC Good Food
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
200g arborio rice
800ml hot vegetable stock
3tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
150g asparagus, ends removed
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Vegetarian parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the rice, and stir to coat it in the oil.
Add all of the hot vegetable stock (I use stock cubes mixed with water from the kettle, so my stock was hot before I added it to the rice. If you're using a stock that you bought as a liquid, just heat it in a pan first).
Carefully transfer the mixture to a large casserole dish (I found a ladle worked well for this step). Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes before taking it out. Add the chopped parsley, and mix well. Lay the asparagus and cherry tomato halves on top of the rice, and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
When the rice is al dente and the majority of the liquid has been absorbed, serve immediately, with parmesan cheese if desired.