March 24, 2014 at 10:14 AM ET
As part of our Fresh Cooks Live: TODAY's Spring Cookalong series, self-made rising food star Laura Vitale, host of the popular YouTube cooking show “Laura in the Kitchen,” showed us how to make a classic Italian meal that's perfect for spring.
"An Italian household staple, risotto is super simple to make and very versatile," Laura said. "This version happens to be my favorite, in-season spring vegetables add not only lovely flavors to this dish, but also great texture. After moving to the States, I noticed that this dish was only served in restaurants and people never made it at home. In reality, this is home food I grew up eating in my grandmother's kitchen and I want people to know that a good risotto can be made in no time, right in their own kitchen!"
For the vegetables:
To make the risotto base:
1. Place your stock in a saucepan over low heat so that it's at a low simmer.
2. Preheat a large skillet with high sides over medium heat. Cook the onions, celery and garlic in the olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until translucent. Add the rice and coat it in the oil, let it cook for about a minute.
3. Add the wine and allow it to reduce for about a minute as well. Add a ladle full of the simmering broth to the rice. Stir constantly and continue to add the broth one ladle full at a time making sure to wait until the rice has soaked it all up before adding in another. Continue cooking the rice this way for about 18 minutes or until the rice is about 5 minutes away from being fully cooked. In the meantime, cook your vegetables.
4. In a separate large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, garlic and shallots and allow them to come to temperature together and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes or until the shallots and garlic are translucent. Add the zucchini and yellow squash. Season with the fresh thyme, salt and pepper and cook everything together for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the veggies begin to soften but still have a bit of a bite to them. Stir the peas in and remove from heat.
5. When the rice is just about fully cooked, adjust the seasoning according to taste. Add in one more ladle full of broth along with the cooked veggie mixture and cook together for 1 minute or so. Add in the Parmiggiano and butter. Turn the heat off and place a lid on the pan. Let it sit for 5 minutes covered. Stir in the fresh basil and serve immediately!
Raw vegetable and mozzarella salad
1. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini ribbons, chopped asparagus, radishes, yellow squash ribbons, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Tumble the fresh dressed vegetables on a platter and place the fresh mozzarella right in the center of the dish. Drizzle a touch more olive oil on the mozzarella and scatter some fresh mint leaves all over the top. This salad is best eaten right away.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
2. In a small food processor or in a blender, add the garlic, oil and parsley and puree until smooth.
3. Smear this mixture on both sides of the bread. Place the top of the bread on top of the bottom and wrap it in aluminum foil, bake it for 10 minutes.
4. Unwrap the bread and lay, making sure it's cut side up. Sprinkle over the mozzarella and grate about 1 cup of Parmiggiano all over both sides of the bread. Return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
5. Slice and serve right away!
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a bowl, add the cream cheese, lemon zest, half of the sugar, vanilla and egg yolk. Mix it together with a wooden spoon and set aside.
3. In another bowl, add the blueberries, remaining sugar, corn starch and lemon juice and set that aside for a few minutes as well.
4. Dust some flour on your work surface, and working with one piece of puff pastry at a time, roll it out slightly with a rolling pin until it's 10" square all around.
5. Using a 4-inch round cuter and cut 4 circles out of each piece of puff pastry. Place the cutouts on the parchments lined baking sheets.
6. Dollop about 2 tsp of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each one and top that with a tbsp of the blueberry mixture.
7. Brush the edges of the cutouts with the egg wash. Fold over one half and seal it shot in a half moon shape.
8. Brush the top with the egg wash as well and make a tiny little slit at the top of each one with a sharp knife.
9. Bake them for about 25 minutes or until golden brown, making sure to rotate the baking sheets half way though baking for even coloring.
10. Let them cool for a few minutes than dust them with confectioner sugar and enjoy!
This story was originally posted Friday at 7:20 a.m. ET. It was updated Monday at 8:20 a.m. ET to add video of the live demonstration and Monday at 10:15 with the on-demand clip.