Sempre così speciale – Il riso verde


Riso verde is a specialty I used to eat at our family restaurant in Italy, I haven’t eaten it anywhere else. My dad’s relatives have un’albergo-ristorante (an hotel and restaurant) Al Lago in San Lazzaro that also has a restaurant where they make wonderful specialties like this one.  All their pasta, tagliatelle, gnocchi, cannelloni, etc…are homemade, therefore many locals go there to celebrate special events such as weddings, baptims and have traditional “gargantuesques” meals. Last time I was there was for my cousin’s wedding but riso verde was not part of the menu to my big disappointment. You can also find some tourists during the summer in San Lazzaro, but being a small little town in Pesaro Province, and not as touristy as Rimini or some other bigger cities on the Adriatic Coast, the summers are usually not as invaded by tourists trying to indulge on local cuisine.

I have always loved this riso verde, basically it’s somehow a risotto, but they call it simply “riso” (rice). Usually as any other “primo” meaning first dish, it’s served by itself, and not as a side dish. To really appreciate it, you should really savor it on its own, and with nothing else to distract you from its wonderful taste and texture.

I was tempted to dress it up but then I resisted and I decided to leave it as it’s served at Al Lago. I added a little extra spinach, the original recipe has less spinach, and a little more cream, so has a lighter green color. You can adjust the spinach and cream quantity. I kept mine on the healthy side, but nothing prevents you from adding a little less spinach and a little cream. In Italy, they use Panna, which is a thick cream, heavy cream or crème fraîche can be substituted but it has a little more of a tangy flavor.

The trick here is to mash to spinach into a purée type of a texture so when you mix it with the risotto, you see no spinach particles. The green color of the spinach needs to be blended with the rice.

Also, I would not use a cooking wine but a nice dry white wine more like Vernaccia or some Northern Italian wines.

Ingredients for 2

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach or 1/3 lb frozen
  • 1 cup (to be adjusted) dry white wine
  • 1 cup (to be adjusted) vegetable broth
  • 2 tbs parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 tbs heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


First start preparing the spinach. If using fresh spinach, wash them well, and boil in salted water for about 5-7 minutes. Drain well squeezing extra water, and chop them finely first, then with a little cream, place in a blender and reduce into a purée type of consistency. Set aside.

In a pot, heat olive oil, then add shallots. Let them brown then add rice. Stir rice to coat rice with the olive oil. Add gradually wine and broth and keep stirring.  Add spinach 10 minutes before rice has finished cooking. Add cream and continue stirring. At the end add parmigiano. Stir well all ingredients so that risotto has absorbed flavors. Serve hot.