Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Risotto

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The short list of recipes/food creation in the kitchen that intimidate me:

  • Kale chips
  • Deep frying
  • Souffles
  • Homemade stock
  • Butchering
  • Risotto

All of these seem to have this aura of difficulty or precision or just a mystical, well-kept secret to success that isn’t shared with home cooks.  After my kale chip attempt proved utterly successful and laughably easy, I was ready to tackle my list again with a little more confidence.  M and his godfather both started with a seafood risotto (full of paella flavors) when we went out to eat.  I stole a bite, of what is my first taste of risotto in my memory.  It was just as creamy and lovely as I had hoped, and, after stumbling across more and more recipes, I finally bit the bullet and set up for my first attempt.  All that I had read about risotto made me certain that I wanted to make this recipe by the book.  I’m prone to substitution and modification, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

risotto mise en place

I did a bit of research and cobbled together what seemed like the most-often used ingredients and ratios for a basic risotto.  Then I played a little, finally settling on my tangy combo of spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and chevre.  I was a bit heavy-handed with my basil, since I used a finely pureed frozen version that completely immersed the dish, but otherwise, it was the warming dish that I had hoped.  And, again, like my kale chips, risotto was much easier than I had anticipated.  It does require constant stirring, however, beyond having to stand at the stove, it is actually fairly simple in terms of ingredients and additions.

risotto stirring close

I have scaled back the amount of basil in this recipe.  My best advice would be to use the fresh herbs.  When your chopping it, you can control just how small to chop the leaves (and therefore just how invasive the flavor will be).  The basic recipe covers the technical requirements, otherwise, play around and have fun adding other flavors!  Since most add-in’s are added at the end of the cooking period, or else at the very beginning, they do not have much of an effect on the general order of the recipe.

risotto plate

Basic Risotto

Serves 4 | Prep: 15 min | Cook time: 30-45 min

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated*
  • Salt and pepper

*If Add-in ingredients to the basic recipe includes a focus on a different kind of cheese (like the goat cheese in mine), sub 1/4 of the parmesan for the focus cheese.

Add the stock to a medium pot and bring to a low simmer.

Prep all ingredients completely before putting heat to your risotto pan.  Use the time while the broth is warming to prepare the mise en place.  I have heard the advice and lectures about mise en place (french for “everything in place” or the ingredient set up for cooking–chopped, measured and prepped–before beginning to cook, as used in professional restaurants).  I, often times, do not follow it or else only halfway: everything chopped, but not measured.  Risotto is not a recipe to ignore mise en place.  Have all of your ingredients measured, chopped, minced, etc before you add anything to the pan.

When the broth is warm and everything is prepared, place a large saucepan or saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil and melt together.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until turning translucent.  Add rice, cook for about 1-2 minutes.  Stir vigorously, to coat each rice grain with the oil-butter mixture.  A lightly “toasty” smell should be detected under the onion.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, until fragrant.  Add the white wine and, stirring constantly, cook until absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of warm broth and continue to stir and cook until absorbed.  Repeat with another 1/2 cup of broth, waiting until the liquid is absorbed entirely by the rice before adding the next 1/2 cup.  With 4 cups of broth, you should have 8 rounds, total, of adding 1/2 cup of broth and stirring until absorbed.  It takes around 25-30 minutes.  The more broth you add, the creamier the rice will get, but you should always be able to notice that the liquid is finally absorbed.  In the last few rounds, a small taste is helpful.  Ultimately, the rice should be chewy, with the hint of a “bite” or slight firmness, like al dente pasta.

Remove the rice from the heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the parmesan, and any Add-in ingredients.  Serve immediately.

Risotto will not keep well, refrigeration will make it gooey.  Enjoy it just cooked.  If you are cooking for less people, halve or quarter the recipe (approximate on the butter and oil.  Everything else is pretty easily divided).

My add-ins last night were spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and basil, but I’ve rounded up some of the more classic pairings.  Search through a couple google results to get your on inspiration for add-ins:

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Add-Ins:

Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Tomato Risotto

  • 1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/2 c. frozen or 1 c. fresh spinach, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 tsp. frozen/dried or 1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1/4 c. chevre, crumbled

Stir into risotto with the butter and parmesan after it is removed from the heat.  Continue stirring until goat cheese is melted.  Serve.

Risotto al Pomodoro

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (replace butter in basic recipe)
  • 1 c. plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced

Use olive oil in place of butter, adding according to basic recipe.  Stir in tomatoes and basil with the parmesan at the end.  Serve.

Risotto alla Milanese

  • 4 c. beef stock (to replace chicken/vegetable stock)
  • 3 Tbsp beef marrow (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp lard (if you want to be really authentic.  Butter is easier to find)
  • 1-2 tsp. saffron

Heat the saffron in the beef stock.  Stir in the marrow when you cook the onions.  Use lard in place of butter.  Follow directions above.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 12 oz mushrooms of choice, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cook the mushrooms alongside the onions and through the broth-adding process.  Stir in the herbs after removing from heat.

Spring Risotto

  • 1 1/2 c. asparagus, chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. parsley, finely chopped

Cook asparagus in microwave while stirring risotto.  Add all ingredients after removing risotto from heat.  Serve immediately.

What  would you put in your risotto?

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One Comment on “Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Risotto”

  1. […] risotto, as I mentioned, comes from the same base as I’ve posted before.  I’ve come a long way from my first frightened attempt at risotto.  I am nearly on […]


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