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Spinach & Herb Risotto

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Serves two as a main course.

This makes a generous amount of pesto, so use half and freeze the rest for the next time you make risotto.

For the spinach & herb pesto
  • 3/4 cup densely packed stemmed spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup mixed flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, and tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, as needed
For the risotto
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock; more if needed
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Prepare the spinach and herb pesto: Put the spinach and herbs in a food processor or a blender. Process, adding a little stock to loosen if needed, until well combined. The pesto should resemble a very thick soup. Set aside.

Make the risotto: Bring the stock to a boil; reduce to a simmer. In a medium, heavy-gauge saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Stir in the rice, toasting just until it starts to sizzle and pop, about 1 minute. It should not color. Add the onion, stirring constantly, and cook until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the wine.

When almost all the liquid has disappeared, after about 1 min., add just enough hot stock to cover the rice. Lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer; stir occasionally. When the stock is almost gone, again add enough stock to cover the rice, along with a pinch of salt. Check the risotto every 3 or 4 minutes, giving an occasional stir to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan, adding just enough stock to cover the rice when the liquid has almost disappeared.

Continue this way until the rice is just al dente, about 20 minutes total cooking time. Bite into a grain; you should see a white pin-dot in the center. Take the risotto off the heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. Stir in half of the herb pesto (freeze the rest for another time) and the cheese. Stir vigorously for a few seconds. The risotto should be moist and creamy, not runny. Add more stock to loosen the risotto if you like, and more salt to taste, if needed. Serve immediately.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 610; Fat (g): 21; Fat Calories (kcal): 190; Saturated Fat (g): 12; Protein (g): 14; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6; Carbohydrates (g): 85; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 950; Cholesterol (mg): 50; Fiber (g): 3;

Photo: Mark Ferri

I made a couple changes from the recipe, in that just stirred in chopped spinach and diced steamed artichoke hearts in the last few minutes of cooking, and just before serving, tossed it all with some of my classic basil pesto which I already had on hand. But it was excellent! Beautiful spring green colors and fresh light flavors.

This is an amazingly light and fresh tasting risotto, not like the usual heavy suspects. I use the full amount of pesto for an especially strong 'green' taste, and like to leave it on the more liquid side. Goes down like like risotto, soup, and salad all in one.

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