Mama D (Giovanna D’Agostino) guided my earliest cooking experiments. As a novice cook, I found the old-style Italian-American recipes in her cookery books simple to follow and delicious – although I do increase the garlic!
Immigrant Italians in Chicago and Minneapolis were cooking some serious deliciousness for dinner, but was it the same as meals made in Calabria?
Inside this easy to use cookery book are 2,000 recipes gathered from the kitchens of Italian families. Yes, 2,000. Each short and sweet recipe is served up as a precious gift from one generation to another.
I was drawn to the following recipe because of the wonderfully interesting way of cooking rice in the water that first simmered spinach. Butter was used in two ways – while one pat of butter is cooked into the spinach. the rest melts luxuriously over cooked rice. Both ideas were a win with me.
Because, I rarely leave even the best recipe alone, I made the following small changes:
I used two 10 oz packages of baby spinach instead of regular spinach (and I did not chop it after cooking).
Unless there is a reason to use regular butter, I use unsalted butter. If you do not use butter, sub in equal amounts of buttery spring harvest olive oil instead, it will be delicious!
Instead of 1 3/4 cup long grain white rice, I used 1 1/3 cup brown rice (with appropriate increase in spinach water and cookery time per package directions).
The huge platter of rice and spinach was most impressive. When I told my husband, daughter, and son-in-law that this was meant to serve four. They laughed… then they ate the whole thing.
The simple recipe below is exactly as it appears in the book.
Rice with Spinach
1 pound 5 ounces spinach
3 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups long-grain rice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Cook the spinach in 2 1/4 cups lightly salted, boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop. Melt half the butter in a skillet, add the spinach and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Cook the rice in the reserved cooking liquid for 15-18 minutes until tender, then drain, tip into a warm serving dish and stir in the remaining butter. Top the rice with the spinach and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
That’s it, one complete recipe, very typical in its brevity. No two page scary hard recipes in this book, just simple, good, family style food that anyone can make.
Many thanks to Phaidon Press for their permission to share this outstanding recipe!
Eat like an Italian – leisurely, in courses, with plenty of conversation, a bit of wine, and small plates filled with a sampling of home cooked love. Mangia!