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Creamy risotto minus the dreary pot-watching


If you love the creamy texture of Italian risotto but hate being tethered for 20 minutes to a stove, then Baked Risotto with Spinach and Shrimp is the dish for you. This baked rice dish has all the delicious flavor and delicate texture you enjoy in traditional risotto, but doesn't require minute-by-minute supervision.

Baked Risotto with Spinach and Shrimp also is deliciously low in fat and calories.

You can buy arborio in many supermarkets, and in some specialty food, import or natural food stores. If you can't find it, substitute medium-grain rice or short-grain rice.

Baked risotto with spinach and shrimp

Makes 8 servings

non-stick cooking spray

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press or 1 teaspoon garlic puree

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 (14 1/2 -ounce) cans fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 (8-ounce) box frozen asparagus spears, thawed

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

8 ounces uncooked large shrimp, shells removed

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic and pepper until the onion is soft and garlic is fragrant. Add the broth and bring to a boil.

Drain the spinach and the as paragus in a colander. Squeeze the excess moisture out of spinach, as though you were squeezing the water out of a wash cloth. It should form a tight, dry ball. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Stir spinach and asparagus into broth. Stir in salt, sage, white pepper and nutmeg. Return mixture to a boil.

Place the rice and the shrimp in the prepared baking dish. Pour hot broth mixture over rice and shrimp. Stir lightly to distribute ingredients evenly. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. About 10 minutes before cooking time is up, check rice to make sure the grains on top have absorbed some liquid. You may have to stir the rice to ensure the grains cook evenly.

Let risotto stand 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with a tossed salad or a steamed vegetable such as carrots or yellow squash.

Per serving: 252 calories; 11.5 g protein; 42 g carbohydrate; 3.7 g fat; 55 mg cholesterol; 417 mg sodium.

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