This recipe is an adaptation of the famous nettle risotto from the River Café in London. Melissa Clark substitutes spinach, which is easier to find and less perilous to work with. She says its best to do with crinkly spinach, which has a more robustly mineral flavor than the delicate baby leaves, but use whichever you can get. It will be amazing regardless.
The melting taleggio makes the rice supremely creamy, and adds a funky earthiness. Note that it is easiest to remove the rind and cut the cheese into cubes when its straight-from-the fridge cold, then let it come to room temperature as you cook the rice. If you would like to use an equal quantity of nettles here instead of spinach, Melissa says you can.
Taleggio is an Italian cheese smear-ripened named after the caves of Val Taleggio. It is one of the oldest soft cheeses produced in every autumn and winter. During cheese making, the acidic milk is brought to the lab and kept on the wood shelves in the chambers as well in caves according to tradition. In order to prevent it from mold infestation, the cheese is washed with seawater once a week. The maturation takes 6 to 10 weeks forming a thin crust. The cheese has a strong smell, but its taste is relatively mild with an unusual fruity tang. Taleggio can be served grated on salads too. Since it melts well, it is perfect for risottos like this one and or polentas.
Looking for a substitute? Fontina, Brie or Gruyere are great options due to their pungent flavors.
- YIELD 6 servings
- TIME 45 minutes
- 8 ounces cold taleggio
- 10 ounces/8 packed cups spinach, any thick stems removed
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium red onion, finely diced
- 3 cups finely diced celery
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- 1 ½ cup Carnaroli rice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, more as needed
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 3 ½ cups good vegetable or chicken stock
- Cut the rind off the taleggio and discard. Dice the cheese into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside at room temperature as you prepare the rice.
- Line a colander with a clean dish towel and place spinach inside. Heat about 8 cups of water until boiling, then pour over spinach; the spinach will wilt. Let spinach sit until cool enough to handle, then use the dish towel to squeeze out the water. Transfer spinach to a food processor and blend with 1 tablespoon butter until smooth. (You’ll end up with about 1 cup of purée.) Reserve.
- Melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery and garlic; cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in rice and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook until toasted and golden, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in wine and cook until it’s absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often but not necessarily continuously, until the stock is finished and the rice is cooked through but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in spinach purée, then taste and add more salt, if needed. Add taleggio and stir to melt. Serve immediately.
This beautiful picture is by Andrew Scrivani for the NYT.