Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Buttery Fresh Spinach Risotto

CAN YOU BELIEVE I had never eaten risotto until a couple of weeks ago? A notable lapse in my gustatory experiences and pleasures.  Although absent from any Southern menu I ever read, that is no excuse. I was aware of this beloved dish. . .it just never appealed to me. I thought it looked like mushy, overcooked white rice.

Recently, my husband and I had the pleasure of dining at a supremely delicious Italian restaurant in beautiful downtown Asheville, North Carolina. I ordered one of the specials for the evening which came with risotto as a side. One taste and I was in love! I could barely focus on the entree I was so savoring the risotto. I learned, then and there, that risotto is not soggy rice but rather creamy, al dente rice.

I ate every word I ever said about risotto and made a vow to cook it at home.  I did, and we loved it.  After some research, I decided on a recipe and method graciously provided by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. And now that I have followed her recipe, precisely, to the best of my ability, I can't wait to try variations--sweet potatoes? Mushrooms? Eggplant?  Stay tuned. . .

Buttery Fresh Spinach Risotto
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 tsp. salt, divided, plus more to taste
2 cups Aborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 to 8 cups very hot water (keep hot on stove near the risotto pot)
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed, dried, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the olive oil, onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a heavy 10-inch saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are wilted and starting to color. Pour in the rice all at once, raise the heat, and stir continuously for about 2 minutes, until the rice grains are toasted (not browned) and make a clicking sound in the pain. Pour in the wine, and keep stirring, all around the pan, until it has evaporated and the rice is dry.

Ladle in 2 cups of hot water, enough to cover the rice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, then pile the shredded spinach on top of the rice, and stir steadily as the spinach wilts and the rice gradually absorbs almost all of the moisture, 5 minutes or more.

When you can see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir, ladle in more water to cover the rice, and stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, as the risotto develops its creamy suspension. Again, when the liquid is almost completely absorbed, ladle in another cup or so of water.

After the risotto has cooked for 15 to 20 minutes and incorporated 6 cups of water, taste; add more salt or more hot water as needed. When done al dente and creamy, turn off the heat.

Drop in the butter pieces, stir vigorously, then beat in the 1/2 cup of grated cheese, and grind black pepper generously on top.

Serve immediately.


  1. Risotto really should be one of the food groups, shouldn't it? It's so tasty, and you've reminded me it's been ages since I've made it. And I have a lot of spinach in the garden at the moment. Hmmmm . . . ;-) Really nice -- thanks.

    1. I have much catching up to do in the risotto department. I hope you make it so I can see your version. Thanks for your comment, John. --Rocquie

  2. Beautiful! I have not ever eaten it, must remedy that soon.....

    1. Melynda, I am glad to know I'm not the only one. I think you and your tummy would really like it. Thank you for your comment. --Rocquie