The color of the finished dish is incredible, deeply forest green, and the flavor is even better – strongly like spinach but perfectly balanced by the nutty, creamy flavors of the risotto, cheese, and nutmeg and by the tartness of the lemon juice and bright notes from the zest.
By Bowen Close
- 1 onion, diced
- 2-3 stalks celery, diced
- 2-4 Tbsp. butter and/or olive oil
- 2 cup (250 g) risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli (don’t rinse the rice ahead of time)
- Around ½ to 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 6 to 8 cups warmed vegetable or meat stock (warm water would work too, but would give far less flavor)
- 1 batch basic risotto for spinach risotto
- ½ lb. fresh spinach, washed and dried (stems can be included, unless they’re woody or tough – if the spinach is still attached in bunches, separate them or chop off where they’re connected)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Nutmeg (freshly grated is preferred, but dried ground is okay too – for seasoning and serving)
- Juice (for seasoning) and zest (for serving) of ½ lemon
- Ricotta salata, for serving (goat cheese, feta, or other crumbly, salty cheeses would work well too)
- Salt, to taste
- Cook vegetables In a medium saute pan or pot (the heavier the better – it will disperse heat more evenly), cook the diced onion and celery in the butter and/or olive oil until translucent.
- Stir in the rice and cook until it has soaked up the moisture in the pot, then for another bit (30 seconds or so). Stir occasionally during this process, just to make sure things aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. The rice will start to smell a bit toasty and get translucent around the edges.
- Add the wine and stir. It will steam and make a racket since the pan will be pretty dry, but that’s okay. Cook, stirring every so often, until the alcohol has cooked off (when you can’t smell alcohol anymore, just wine) and the rice has soaked up most of the liquid.
- Start adding stock in increments, somewhere around a ½ cup at a time, keeping the mixture at a low bubble. Stir fairly consistently through the cooking process, scraping along the bottom of the pot to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan – because that rice is releasing all that lovely starchy sauce, it can start to stick fairly easily. Your first few times, it’s best to stir almost the entire time, to get used to how the process progresses. After a while you’ll be able to do other things in your kitchen between stirrings, but even experienced risotto makers have somewhat of a tether to the pot while it’s going. Whenever liquid doesn’t pool at the bottom of the pan while you’re stirring, add another batch of stock. Do this process for somewhere between 15-25 minutes (or maybe more, even), stirring and adding stock until the rice is cooked through. Start tasting around minute 12 so you know how progress is going, and as it gets close start adding less stock each time so you don’t end up with soupy risotto. When done, risotto rice will taste a bit al dente and chewy, but it should be enjoyable to eat – not crunchy or unpleasantly undercooked.
- When the rice is tender, remove it from the heat or turn off the burner. Add a bit more stock if you’d like it to have a looser texture, then add salt to taste. Continue with spinach risotto recipe above.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the whole spinach leaves. Use tongs or another utensil to toss and stir the leaves until they’re entirely wilted. Grate the zest off ½ a small-to-medium lemon, and set aside. Squeeze the juice into the spinach and add a few gratings of nutmeg (or a couple of small pinches of dried ground nutmeg). Stir or toss to combine. Transfer the spinach to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Stir the spinach mixture into the finished risotto along with a few small splashes of water (or enough to reach desired consistency – some people like soupier risotto; some like it more firm). Add salt to taste (if needed). Serve and garnish with shaved (use a vegetable peeler), grated, or crumbled ricotta salata, a few gratings of nutmeg (or a pinch of dried ground nutmeg) and the lemon zest.
Bowen Close believes that food should make people happy and healthy, and loves bringing together people with creative, delicious food made from the heart. She loves making farm-inspired, flavorful dishes with sustainable ingredients - whether that's a big plate of roasted veggies, a towering chocolate layer cake, or a cocktail utilizing backyard ingredients - and collects recipes and other food-related stories on her website, Bowen Appétit. She is a chef, cooking instructor, and food writer living in Southern California with her husband and fully stocked pantry.