This risotto is so satisfying and filling that you can serve it as a standalone dinner.
Cauliflower really is the perfect substitute for the traditional rice used in risotto (Arborio) because it cuts the cooking down to a mere fraction of the time, you get much more nutritional value from it (no starch and low carb) and it's not easy to tell the difference in taste. We dare you to serve it without telling anybody it's cauliflower!
Options & Alternatives: fresh parsley chopped or some other fresh herb as a garnish topping. Instead of asparagus, you could try fresh spinach (see notes).
By hand: After removing the leaves with their stalks, chop them into large chunks and grate on the largest holes of your box grater (that you normally use for shredding cheese). If you have a veggie ricer with a variety of blades, use the one with the largest holes. Of course, you can just chop it all up by hand into rice-sized pieces but it tends to fly around enough that you might find it frustrating.
Ricing with a processor: Either use the large grating blade OR gently pulse chop only 2 or 3 times (see video tutorial) - be careful not to over-process.
Whichever ricing method you use, be careful not to make the pieces too small. It's better if the pieces are slightly bigger than grains of rice than smaller, so it maintains some texture. Next, you will spread the rice out onto a linen towel and blot dry fairly well. Drying the rice out serves two purposes, it prevents the risotto from being mushy and prepares it for storage. Now is the time to decide how much risotto you want to prepare and store the remaining rice in a freezer-safe bag or container (see leftovers section below). For ease of future use, freeze in half to full cup portions. The measurements for ingredients in this recipe are for four people as a main course. So if you're cooking for one or two, use half or less of the rice, plus cut the cream and Parmesan in half too.
2. Before cutting the asparagus, gently flex the stalks towards the bottom to see where they become tough, that's where they won’t bend as easily – then snap off the bottoms at that point and discard. If you prefer the look and texture of sliced mushrooms, just allow them to cook a bit longer. I left the amounts of onion and garlic somewhat open for you to adjust according to your tastes; however, I think you can be brave with the sweet onion because it will shrink down in size quite a bit and it will take a fair amount for its mild flavor to come through in this cream-based sauce.
3. Pour the olive oil into a saucepan and warm it up on medium. Once the oil is hot, saute the onion until softened, then add the garlic and mushrooms, continuing to saute until the garlic is fragrant (all while stirring occasionally). Add the asparagus last, so it maintains some firmness and doesn't become overcooked or mushy, just until the asparagus is a deeper green.
4. Add the cauliflower rice and saute for a couple minutes, up to five minutes if you're using frozen rice.
5. Turn the element off and add the heavy cream or half and half plus the Parmesan, stirring until it's reached a creamy consistency. After serving on plates or in bowls, garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
You can use almost any type of mushroom but baby bellas (small portabellas) are recommended for a richer flavor.
Instead of or in addition to asparagus, fold in some fresh spinach just a moment before adding the cream and Parmesan.
As for the Parmesan, fresh grated is ideal but you can use the shredded (at SuperValu the Everyday Essentials brand calls it "fancy cut"). In a pinch, you could use the dried stuff in the shaker can but you may want to add a little extra cream to compensate for the dryness to achieve the traditional creamy texture of risotto.
You can use your leftover cauliflower rice in just about anything you would normally use rice! Rice bowls, stir frys, stuffed peppers, burritos and more. You can even cook it when frozen. Just put a bit of oil and seasoning (like garlic and onion) in a skillet or frying pan, warm it up and saute the rice for 5 to 8 minutes.
Raw cauliflower rice is also good in salads, to give them a bit of crunch. Try our Chopped Cauliflower salad!