Creamy Tomato Spinach Risotto

Every week I need my pasta fix on Sunday, but occasionally I switch it up for some of my other favorite carbs, like polenta, potatoes, or risotto! I love how creative you can get with risotto – as long as you have arborio rice, broth & some pantry items, you’re in business! Well, and of course cheese is a necessity but that goes without saying.

Pick a flavor you like with some spices, a vegetable or two you have in the fridge that is going to go bad, some meat, or just some cheese on hand & walla! 30-45 minutes later your risotto is simmerin’ away about ready to enjoy, without the effort of a grocery haul. This is my way of saying: Always have arborio rice & broth in the pantry. I personally prefer Rice Select or Lundberg when it comes to brands of arborio that absorb the most flavor and turn out the creamiest. With broth, Kitchen Basics is my favorite, but whatever is on sale is usually what I resort to, if not bouillon cubes.

Risotto tends to be thought of as a high maintenance dish, but this is not because it’s complicated to make by any means. If I can do it, anyone can… But the reason it’s thought of this way, and so often selected as the entree of choice at night restaurants is the labor of love that goes into it. All I mean by this, is that like your 1 year old baby, brand new pupper, or occasionally your full grown spouse, risotto needs your full attention. Unlike baby, puppy, and spouse, risotto only needs you for about 30 minutes though, don’t worry. Constant stirring is important.

When all the ingredients are together as one in the pot, the stirring becomes important because of the ever important consistency. By stirring constantly, you are actually adding in a key ingredient: air. This cools it down, thickens it, & keeps it from sticking to the bottom & burning. The agitation of the rice releases the starchiness necessary to achieve that heavenly creaminess that we live for! Science!

On the particular day that I made this risotto, we had some fresh, close to overripe beefsteak tomatoes. They were sitting on the counter just begging to be tossed on the stove with some garlic and seasonings. Also in our vegetable drawer was a bag of some leafy green spinach that was opened and just about full. It was ready to be eaten, on the verge of wilting. This made the decision easy to go the tomato spinach route.

Anyway, whenever it’s time to start a recipe, I try to make it my goal to multi-task as much as possible. It’s like a game to me, and the quicker I can get an aroma to fill the apartment, the better! So, first thing is first: get garlic, olive oil, butter, and spices sizzling ASAP. While this is going on in the sauce pan, I start warming the broth in the other pot, and immediately begin chopping away at the tomatoes, measuring out the rice, and grating the cheese. Before I even finish chopping the tomatoes, the kitchen smells like what my heaven will someday smell like at all times.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (My dad taught me to just always coat the pan)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or I cheat & just use the pre-minced garlic in the fridge)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes OR 2 cans
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (I’ll be honest, I don’t measure this…)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (didn’t measure this either TBH)
  • 1 bag of spinach (I prefer baby spinach)
  • Some Heavy Whipping Cream (however much you like to achieve that dreamy pink color)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (I’m not above Kraft sprinkle cheese when it’s all I got)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste + more cheese!

Directions

  1. Grab your saucepan, your biggest wok, wooden spoon, sharpest knife, & a cutting board. Pour your broth into your saucepan, & get your olive oil, butter, & garlic in your wok. Turn both onto low & roll up your sleeves to do some chopping!
  2. Measure out your rice & dice up your fresh tomatoes into small chunks. When you’re done chopping the tomatoes the room should start smelling amazing as the olive oil/butter has begun to absorb into the garlic. This is your cue to pour your uncooked rice into the wok so they can ABSORB-IO (see what I did there?!) all that flavorful goodness. This is where that labor of love begins aka get to stirring!
  3. Now that the rice is soaking up flavor, give it a second while checking on your broth in the pan, which should be close to boiling, if not already boiling. If it’s not, feel free to crank up the temp a notch or two. 
  4. When your rice seems to be “growing” from the absorption (this should take no more than 1-2 minutes), add those tomatoes & your bag of spinach. Additionally, take the heat down to low on your broth now that it’s reaching boiling temp, & ladle some into the sauce. 
  5. Keeping stirring with your wooden spoon!
  6. For the next 20-ish minutes, continue adding in ladle after ladle of broth, until all the broth has been added & absorbed. When it starts to look just about ready, add in your cream (or don’t – totally the chef’s decision!) *Caution: Don’t add the broth too quickly – let it slowly absorb & thicken a bit between each helping of hot broth that you add. Your patience will be so worth it!
  7. When you’ve achieved the consistency you dream of, add the salt, cheese, pepper, & anything else you fancy! It’s serving time!
  8. Enjoy!

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