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Mar 19, 2019
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WINE WITH...Risotto with Spinach and Caramelized Onions

A well-made risotto is a Goldilocks dish—the rice is not too soft, not too crunchy, but tender, with a pleasing firmness to each grain.  The finished result should have a creamy texture, not dry (like regular white or brown rice) and not sticky (as in many Asian dishes).  A well-made risotto can provide a delicious foundation on which to build flavor by adding mushrooms, seafood, or vegetables, but don’t overload the risotto with too many other ingredients.  The rice itself should be the star here, with all additions the supporting actors.
Risotto With Spinach and Caramelized Onions
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
4 tablespoons butter (divided use)
1 large white or yellow onion thinly sliced
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 lb. raw spinach, stemmed and thinly
 sliced crosswise*
2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese,
plus more for passing at the table
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy saucepan or skillet, warm one tablespoon each of the olive oil and butter.  Turn the heat up to medium and add the sliced onion, spreading it out over the bottom of the pan.  Let sit without stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the onions just begin to color on the bottom.  Stir them, and then let them sit for a minute or so, stirring again when they begin to brown.  Continue stirring the onions, scraping up the browned pieces from the bottom, and then letting them sit as they soften and brown more and more, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent burning.  The entire caramelizing process should usually takes around 20 minutes or more.  When they have reached a uniform deep brown color, sprinkle in about ½ teaspoon of salt.  Then scrape the onions into a bowl and reserve.

Place the remaining olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pan.  When the butter has melted stir in the rice.  Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds; then pour in the wine all at once, stirring the mixture over high heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the spinach, then lower the heat to medium-high and pour in a cup or so of the stock.  Continue adding liquid in this fashion, stirring in a cup at a time then letting the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding the next cupful of stock (you do not have to stand there stirring continuously, but do keep an eye on the rice, adding more liquid as soon as the previous addition has been mostly absorbed).

When the rice is almost tender to the bite but still slightly firm in the center, stir in one more cup of stock and as soon as it comes to a vigorous boil remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the remaining butter and the 2 tablespoons of cheese.  Grind in a little bit of black pepper and dish up the risotto, topping each serving with a generous spoonful of the caramelized onions.

*Defrosted frozen spinach could be used instead of fresh.

*          *          *

Because the caramelized onions add a certain rich sweetness to the dish, wines with at least a hint of matching sweetness from fruit partner best with the risotto.  Of the ten wines we tried (seven whites, three reds) we found that overly oaked whites and a red wine with too-forceful tannins made for the least appealing matches.

Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_
More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  


“Valdeorras,” Galicia



Old Vines      



(Imported by Fine Estates From Spain/The Country







With its fleshy texture, floral aromas, and flavors reminiscent of summer fruits, this elegant white wine from Spain was one of our favorite matches with the risotto.





Domaine Bott-Geyl,              



“Points Cardinaux Métiss”          



(Imported by Roanoke Valley Wine Company)







Delicate yet intricately flavored, this is a white blend of 40% Pinot Blanc, 40% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Gris, and 10% Pinot Noir.  It offers flavors of apricot, citrus and honey underscored by wild mint and clear mineral notes.    








Friedrich Willhelm Gymnasium,

Mosel (Germany)


“Fritz Willi  Frizzante”     



(Imported by Schmitt Söhne)










Due to its being laced with bright, somewhat sweet fruit flavors, we found that this nimble fizz connected elegantly with the risotto.








Carneros Sonoma County          


“Durell Vineyard”










With suggestions of peach and citrus, this supple Chardonnay seemed to embrace and deliciously amplify the richness of the caramelized onions.








“Kali Hart”

Pinot Noir     






This is a red wine that has enough delicacy to not overwhelm the risotto.  Its fairly subtle oak flavors add their own hint of spice to the experience.