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Playing Popeye Risotto with Beefy Balsamic Mushrooms


  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (use vegetable to make this meal vegetarian)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 pounds spinach, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup (about a handful) pine nuts, toasted
  • A few grates fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup (about 2 handfuls) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided, plus additional for passing at the table
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated, plus 1 clove cracked
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large or 6 small portabello mushroom caps, brushed clean of dirt and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)


Serves: 4 servings


Bring the water and stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low to keep warm.

While the liquids are heating up, add the spinach, pine nuts, a few grates of nutmeg and a handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano to a food processor. Pulse a few times to get everything chopped up. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and water and about 1 tablespoon EVOO. Run the machine to puree and reserve.

Place a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 turn of the pan of EVOO. Add the onions and chopped or grated garlic, and saute until the onions begin to get tender, 4-5 minutes.

Add the arborio rice and toast it in the pan, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Ladle about half of the stock or broth into the pan with the rice and bring it up to a bubble, stirring constantly. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, until all the liquid is absorbed, 4-5 minutes. Ladle in about half of the remaining liquid and continue stirring the rice until that liquid has fully absorbed, 4-5 minutes. Ladle in the remaining stock and cook the risotto until most of the remaining liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 7 minutes. Season the risotto with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Once you get the risotto going, place another skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoons of butter and EVOO. Add the mushrooms and cracked clove of garlic into the other pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and add the balsamic. Cook about 1 minute to glaze the mushrooms then remove from heat and discard the garlic clove. Keep the mushrooms warm until the risotto is finished.

Once the risotto and mushrooms have finished cooking, add the spinach puree and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the risotto and give it a good stir. Spoon the risotto out onto a serving dish and top it with the glazed mushrooms. Pass additional Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.