When spring asparagus shows up at the markets, we go a bit mad for the emerald green shoots, throwing them in just about anything, including this creamy risotto studded with jewel-like pancetta.

Cook’s Note: The thickness of asparagus can vary greatly throughout the year.

Pencil Asparagus

The first crop to hit the markets is often the pencil-thin asparagus that we call for here. It’s so young and tender that it takes only 5 minutes or so in hot broth to cook it to tender perfection. It can be cut into 1-inch-long pieces and remain tender.

Medium Asparagus

Should you find yourself with a thicker version, say the thickness of a finger, or about 1/3 inch in diameter, then slice it thinly on a bias about 1/3 inch thick to get it to cook in the same 5-minute window. You could also cut them a little larger and add them to the rice a few minutes earlier.

Large Asparagus

This is the toughest variety, and it’s often all you can find toward the end of the harvest. While not the best for this dish, it can be peeled (shaved) and incorporated for a similar result, or sliced ever-so-thin with a knife and added at about the 10-minute mark to ensure it is supple and tender by the end.

Some recipes call for adding the asparagus at the beginning of cooking. We find that the asparagus is often left mushy and a drab olive tint, and prefer the brighter bite that these instructions yield.