Artichoke, Basket Cheese, and Parmesan Risotto

My grandmother loved basket cheese and we continue to enjoy it just as she did, every Easter, when cheesemakers make this mild, somewhat firm ricotta cheese. It’s delicious cut into cubes for a salad or tossed with a simple penne marinara and it’s lovely in this risotto. It’s highly perishable, so plan to use it within 3 days of purchase. You can always serve it with crostini for breakfast, too, with apricot preserves.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons organic butter or organic buttery spread, divided
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts Sea salt and pepper
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 ribs organic celery, including leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 10-ounce bag organic baby spinach
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small organic shallots, finely chopped
  • cups Arborio rice, found in the rice section at the supermarket
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ cup crumbled basket cheese or feta
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Method

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the artichoke hearts and some sea salt and pepper and stir to coat. Cover and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the artichoke hearts are softened. Turn the softened artichoke hearts and any juices into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover and process for about 15 seconds, until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Bring the 7 cups of water to a boil in a large covered pot over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of the butter and the celery, carrot, and some sea salt and pepper. Cover and cook at a boil for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in the baby spinach. Cover and turn off the heat. This will be your broth for the risotto. Leave it covered on the stove to keep warm.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until the shallots are softened. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. The rice will turn from white to a creamy beige. Add the wine and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the wine is absorbed. Stir in the blended artichoke hearts, using a rubber spatula to scrape the processor bowl. Add 1 cup of the broth, stirring well to combine. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes, until the rice absorbs much of the broth but is not dry. Add ½ cup of the broth and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the rice absorbs much of the broth.
  4. Continue adding the broth and the vegetables in the broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly for 2 minutes after each addition or until the rice mostly absorbs into the rice, but is not dry. Taste for doneness; the rice should be barely tender, thick, and creamy when done. Remove from the heat. Stir in the basket cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Taste for seasonings. Turn into a serving dish. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios evenly over the top.

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