Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach


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.

Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach

  • Looks super delicious! I have a recipe I make but with cashew cream. This is such a great Thanksgiving dish!

  • This sounds so good! I’ve been looking for a good rice dish to serve alongside entrees.

  • Nice one, Elly. it reminds me of a Spanakorizo I had with cheese mixed in…changed the dish entirely -loved it!

  • YUM. I chronically have a bunch of spinach in the fridge that ends up not getting used. This could solve that and my “What the heck will our side dish be?” problem. Love it.

  • This sounds really good, Elly. Thank you for sharing it!

  • a little french style spanakorizo? I could dive into a bowl of that!

  • You can tell Zachary that I eat the majority of my food by the fistful as well, so he’s in good company (it def tastes better that way!). 😛

    I love how cheesy creamy fabulous this is. Without the stress of risotto stirring.

  • This looks awesome! I have that cookbook but somehow I missed this recipe…will need to look it up asap

  • The other day I made arborio rice with cheese! 🙂 (My mother used to make me a lot of rice with cheese as a child actually.) However, next time I’ll add in the spinach too — for some variety and to make it a bit healthier too 😉

  • Pam

    This has everything in it I adore: spinach, garlic and cheese. Wow. Gives rice a whole new meaning. Yum.

  • oh! super nice! =) i will try this!
    hope you can check out my blog too =D

  • Looks wonderful! Can’t wait to try it!

  • sara

    Elly, this looks great, but there are no times in the recipe for cooking the rice. About how pong does it cook for? Thanks!

    • elly

      Sara, I would say most of the liquid had been absorbed in 15-20 minutes, and then I turned the burner off and let it sit for another 5. I would just check it after about 15 and see how it looks.

  • This sounds absolutely delicious! I’ll have to put it on the menu next week.

  • This was one of the first recipes I flagged in that cookbook, and I have since forgotten about it. I love risotto, and I love anything creamy, cheesy, and garlicky even more 🙂

  • tracy

    I made this over the weekend and it was DELISH! thanks!

    • elly

      Great to hear, Tracy!

  • I’ve tried spinach and cheese with rice. Love the idea of making it garlicky.

  • It’s delicious!

  • taffy


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  • I love this recipe! I make it all the time!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • elly

      Good to hear, Brittany!