Fill a large skillet or a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus pieces and cook for 2 minutes. While the asparagus cooks, prepare an ice bath (a large bowl of cold water and ice). Remove the cooked asparagus to the ice bath to quickly stop the cooking. Set aside.
In a medium pot, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a simmer. Keep hot, but do not allow it to boil.
In a large saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.
Add the shallots. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the rice and lemon zest. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
Add the wine and stir until absorbed.
Begin adding the hot stock in small increments, waiting for each addition of stock to be almost completely absorbed before adding more. This process should take about 20 to 25 minutes.
(Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to stir risotto constantly. You just need to stir it after each addition of stock and then occasionally between additions. Dont go too far away, but dont be afraid to leave the stove.)
The risotto is ready when all of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is tender but still has some bite to it.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, parsley, and mascarpone cheese (if using).
Drain the asparagus and stir it into the risotto.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately, garnished with lemon zest or extra cheese, if desired.
Serves 3 to 4 as an entree, or 6 to 8 as a side dish.
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