Asparagus, Pea and Tomato Quinotto
Serves: Serves 4
When I went to Italy, I had a bucket list of foods that I had to have, and risotto was right at the top. Creamy, comforting, and blessedly cheesy! I’ve had some pretty graphic dreams about the stuff. My version skips the starchy rice and starts instead with a mixture of protein-packed quinoa and fibre-rich cauliflower pulsed into rice-like “grains.” Mixed with sweet, juicy tomatoes, supple peas, tender spring asparagus, and a luscious swirl of ricotta cheese, trust me, even Nonna will approve.
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) +1 teaspoon (5 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (450 g) asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) halved cherry tomatoes 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh thyme leaves, more for garnish
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) quinoa (any colour), rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup (125 mL) dry white wine
  • ½ cup (125 mL) frozen peas
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL) ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon zest, more for garnish
  1. In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until they reach a rice-like consistency. Measure out 2 cups (500 mL) and set aside for another dish (see Tip).
  2. Heat the stock in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and keep warm.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and fry until it begins to soften and lightly caramelize, 1½ to 3 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus spears are. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and fry for 2 minutes. Finally, reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Scoop all the vegetables into a bowl.
  4. Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 teaspoon (5 mL) olive oil. Add the quinoa and the reserved cauliflower rice. Stir until the quinoa and cauliflower are coated in the oil, about 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and scrape up any of the flavourful bits that found their way onto the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring, until the wine is fully absorbed.
  5. Add about ½ cup (125 mL) of the warm vegetable stock and cook, stirring, until the stock has been almost totally absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue adding stock ½ cup (125 mL) at a time, continuing to stir, until the quinoa is tender but still a bit wet—neither soupy nor dry—about 20 minutes. You’re not looking for that super-dry, fluffy consistency you normally aim for when you whip up a batch of quinoa. This usually takes 4 to 5 cups (1 to 1.25 L) of stock, but yours could take the full 6 cups (1.5 L).
  6. Stir in the frozen peas, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest, and the reserved cooked vegetables. Stir until the peas have thawed through, then season with sea salt and a generous helping of cracked black pepper.
  7. Divide the quinotto among 4 bowls or plates. Top each serving with additional Parmesan, lemon zest, and thyme leaves, if desired, and serve.
Gluten-free, healthy fats, high fibre, high protein, no added sugar, nut-free, vegetarian

ABBEY’S TIP: Whereas traditional risotto has a strict “à la minute” serving protocol, quinotto can be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 3 days, and reheated. It will thicken as it sits in the fridge, so if you want to loosen it up again, just swirl in another dollop of ricotta or a splash of vegetable stock. Any leftover cauliflower rice can be used to make my Brown Butter and Orange Cauli-Couscous Salad or Cheese-Explosion Cauliflower Tots.
Recipe by Food Bloggers of Canada at