Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach

October 7, 2011 · 25 comments

in rice and grains,vegetarian

This is not risotto.

It tastes a lot like risotto. It uses arborio rice. It has cheese. It is creamy.

But it is not risotto.

In her cookbook, Dorie mentions that her Italian friend warned her never to order risotto in a French restaurant, because the French can’t get it right. After experiencing this first hand, I typically tend to agree. It’s not that the risotto I’ve had in French restaurants is bad, not at all. It’s creamy and quite tasty. But it didn’t seem to have that same texture as Italian risotto – didn’t have that slight bite in the center of each rice kernel, and it wasn’t “loose,” like risotto should be.

(Though, I will say that we did dine at a French restaurant in Seattle once, and though I was hesitant, I did order a risotto that sounded too good to pass up. I have to say, they pretty much nailed it. And how can you not be happy when you can go to the same place for risotto and gougeres?)

This dish, while not risotto, is still creamy, delicious, and comfort food at its finest. And you know what? It’s not that bad for  you. It only uses a tablespoon of butter (for quite a large amount), and of course there is the extra benefit of spinach. Zachary enjoyed this, too (even though he thought it tasted better by the fistful, rather than off a spoon or fork). Another benefit to this dish is that, while it has a very similar flavor to risotto, it does not require nearly the same amount of attention. There is no constant stirring, adding liquid, etc. This is much easier and quicker to make.

I modified this recipe a bit. Since my spinach was already washed and dry, I decided to just cook it alongside the onions and garlic (Dorie has you cook it first, then wring it dry and chop). I also doubled the garlic and, since we don’t keep heavy cream around, I substituted whole milk.

We just ate this on the side of a piece of chicken with a quick pan sauce, but the rice would also be great stuffed into peppers or tomatoes. If you have leftovers, you could definitely make some fried risotto patties/balls, which would, of course, be awesome.

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