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My weekly visits to see my mother are very special. When I visit, I might take her shopping, or to a medical appointment or do some work in the vegetable garden. One of my favourite things to do when I visit is to cook with her and then share the meal, usually sitting at the kitchen table in what used to be my father’s spot.


Her cooking repertoire is more limited since my father has passed and she relies on my sister and I to go food shopping. She loves cooking for one or two others though. Sometimes we eat pasta, or soup but she knows that my favourite meal is risotto. She uses whatever she has in the fridge as a base for the risotto. It might be her veal ragù or some leftover peperonata. When she doesn’t have much in the fridge she will use tinned seafood (salmon, mackerel and sardines) or a packet of spinach. Being a veneta, risotto is a staple for her. She must have made it thousands of times – it is creamy just like a risotto should be and always delicious.

lunch with livia - italy on my mind

After lunch we often play cards, usually a game of Scopa with italian cards – the ones from Trieste. And we have Lavazza coffee, made in a stovetop percolator. She gets out her biscuit tin, and there are generally kiffel in there, which we eat with our coffee. After cards, as I am preparing to leave, she gives me leftovers to take home for Mark to eat, or some lemons from the tree or fresh parsley from the garden. She doesn’t like letting me go empty-handed. And she thanks me profusely for coming, shooing me away from helping her with the dishes. How much I treasure these times with her, my ever-loving mamma, who turns 87 today – buon compleanno mamma!

Asparagus risotto with lemon

serves four
1 and 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Vialone nano rice
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed into 5cm/2 inch pieces (keep tips and woody ends separate)
4 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, diced
handful fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Bring the stock to boil in a large pot and drop in the washed woody asparagus ends. Cover and keep at a low simmer. In a medium sized saucepan, heat up a good glug of olive oil and add the onion, cooking on low heat, stirring occasionally until it is translucent (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant. Add the wine and stir, cooking until is has evaporated. Now add the rice and stir, making sure it is well covered by the oil and garlic. Once the rice has warmed through (2-3 minutes), add a ladle of stock (leaving the woody asparagus ends in the stock), stirring occasionally and making sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add another ladle full of stock, allowing it to be absorbed by the rice and stirring occasionally. Repeat until you have used about 2/3 of the stock (approximately 10 minutes). Now add the asparagus pieces (reserving the tips) to the risotto with the next addition of stock, stir well and allow the stock to absorb. The asparagus tips should be added in the last few minutes of cooking (the last or second last addition of liquid) so they remain quite firm. The rice takes around 18 minutes to cook and should be still slightly firm in the centre when ready. By this time you should have used most or all of your stock (top up with boiling water if you run out). Stir in the butter, allowing it to melt, then stir in half the parsley leaves and the parmigiano and adjust for salt and pepper to taste. Cover and allow to rest for a minute.

Serve on warmed plates, scattering on the lemon zest, the rest of the parsley and extra parmigiano.

risotto asparagus-italy on my mind-best italian food blog


  • Debra Kolkka says:

    I love risotto, and this looks great

  • sabine says:

    I love the addition of lemon zest which I never tried in risotto – please send a huge thank you to your mamma for this wonderful trick. And happy birthday wishes as well. May she remain healthy and happy as she hopefully is.
    One question on top: I always use arborio rice for risotto – you obviously prefer other varieties, what is the difference?

    • thank you very much, I will let mamma know – I find lemon zest goes with a lot of food, I scatter it on quite liberally. Vialone nano and Carnaroli rice are able to absorb more liquid than arborio rice and more resistant to being over cooked. The resultant risotto is creamier. It is certainly what the Italians in Italy are more likely to use.

  • Pauline says:

    Paola, what a blessing and JOY to be able to share a meal preparation with your 87 yr “young” Mother!! 87 primavere sono molte***TANTI AUGURI A VOI

  • You’re so very lucky to have such a wonderful mother still around and cooking for you. Such a lovely smile she has. I haven’t played scopa for years, but the mention brought back some wonderful memories of Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house… 🙂

  • Beautiful story and a great looking risotto. The addition of the lemon zest was inspired!

  • Jo O'mara says:

    5hat is a beautiful post, Paula! and Happy Birthday Mrs. Bacchia! I am definitely going to make this…have some chicken stock in the freezer and asparagus is Devine at the moment.

  • Oh my goodness – I felt like I was reading the story of my life when I was reading this post! We have so much in common 🙂 My mom, who is Veneta, too, and immigrated from Italy lives in San Francisco. I visit her once a week and take her shopping, doctors appointments, and such, too. She loves to cook and will send home leftovers for my husband – whose name is Mark as well! Does your mom speak the Venetian dialect to you? I love listening to Veneziano, even though I can’t speak it…I can only speak Italian, but I understand the dialect completely and find it very pleasant 🙂 The risotto looks delicious as well…and no matter how hard I try, it never tastes like my mom’s!

    • Thanks so much for your message – love that you have a similar story! Yes we speak the dialect to each other bit it is not Veneto, but the dialect of Monfalcone, where they moved to when she was about 10. It is quite similar though- you know every town has a slightly different dialect. Where exactly in Veneto is your mother from? I love linking up with people who have similar stories but are on the other side of the world!

      • Where is Monfalcone? My mom’s family was from Campo San Martino in the province of Padova. She moved to Lago Maggiore when she was a little girl so she speaks noth the Veneto and dialect and Lombardo dialects. She has some friends here in SF from Asolo and Trieste so she’s always conversing with them in Venetian. I picked up the ear for both dialects growing up and can understand them fluently, but my parents always spoke to me in real Italian, so that’s all I can speak! I guess that’s a good thing 🙂 I recently did some genealogy research at because they have online records from the Padova province and was able to trace my mom’s family back quite a few generations!

  • paninigirl says:

    Such a sweet post and your photos are lovely. Your mom is adorable and a very Happy Birthday to her!

  • What a lovely post, and how fortunate you are to have your mom still with you. These are special times that you spend together. Your risotto looks truly glorious.

  • salcollins says:

    Hi Paola, just wanted to wish your mum a belated Happy Birthday. My mum is 87 as well, she’ll be 88 in February. I’ve been offline for a little while but reading your posts still. I hope everyone is well and that you get back into your kitchen soon. Sally xx

    • Thanks Sally I will let her know when I visit tomorrow. We are so lucky having mums with us for so many years. I hope you are enjoying the time you spend with yours. Pxx

  • Karly says:

    Wow this is the most beautiful post. How fortunate you both are to have each other! I have just discovered your blog and love your passion for food but most of all I’m touched by the love that shines through every post that mentions your Mamma. Thank you for sharing this with us

    • Dear Karly thank you very much for your kind words. The posts about mamma are the most special ones for me to write, I am chuffed that others enjoy them too

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