As explained in this basic recipe post, risotto is one of those infinitely versatile dishes that smart cooks live by. Once you know the basic recipe, you’ve can access an entire repertoire must by changing the flavoring ingredient, which can be meat, fish, vegetable or even fruit. One of my favorite ways of making risotto is called risotto verde, or Green Risotto, made with green vegetables, most commonly—and my personal favorite—spinach. It has a wonderful flavor and, to my mind, looks very pretty on the plate.
- 400g (14 oz) rice for risotto
- 1 medium onion or 2 shallots, finely minced
- A splash of white wine
- 200g (7 oz) spinach
- Broth, preferably homemade, q.b.
- 100g (3-1/2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1-2 Tbs butter or heavy cream
You simply follow the basic recipe for making a risotto in bianco, starting with a soffritto of onion or shallot sautéed in butter—and I think butter tastes best here—and proceed to add your rice, then a splash of white wine, then ladlefuls of broth, one by one, until the rice is almost done.
Then add some baby spinach, which you will have rinsed well of any grit and puréed in a blender with a bit of broth until perfectly smooth. Continue until the rice is done al dente, then proceed to the usual mantecatura, adding grated parmesan cheese and a dab of butter or—as I prefer—a slurp of heavy cream. The cream is not very orthodox, but I find that it complements the taste of the spinach very well.
Serve immediately, with additional cheese on the side for those who want to top their risotto with it.
I find that Green Risotto works best with baby spinach, with has a lovely sweet taste and fine, velvety texture when puréed. But if you have older spinach on hand, then make sure to trim off their stems, and briefly blanch the leaves in boiling water, before you puréed them. They will need less broth to form a purée. If you want a richer dish, you can sauté the spinach purée in some more butter, and season it with salt, pepper and some grated nutmeg.
Some recipes, by the way, call for adding the spinach, in the more typical fashion, to the soffritto at the beginning of the cooking process, but I find that this robs the spinach of its sweetness, so I think this is one of those cases where you are well advised to wait until almost the end.
Spinach is typical but you could make Green Risotto with another leafy green vegetable like swiss chard, arugula, watercress or even kale—although kale needs a lot of cooking, so you should definitely blanch it, and add it at the beginning, not the end. Some recipes combine spinach or another leafy vegetable with other green vegetables like peas or asparagus. And while my favorite version tends towards using dairy, there is a version (from Abruzzo, according to the Accademia italiana della cucina) that begins with a soffritto that combines onion, garlic and carrot sautéed in olive oil, and end with a mantecatura using some grated parmesan but no cream at the end. I have also found one recipe online for Green Risotto that ‘gilds the lily’ a bit, suggesting the addition of ricotta—a classic combination with spinach, of course—along with cream and parmesan cheese.