Vegan Risotto with Spinach, Saffron, and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Vegan Risotto with Spinach, Saffron, and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

I just typed the title of this blog post, and all I can think is “Oh, yum!” Even without cheese, this risotto is amazing. Even without wine, it’s amazing! Sadly, I had no white wine in the house when I created the recipe, so I skipped adding it. Feel free to include it in the recipe, since it’s one of the basic components of a traditional risotto – and since a glass of the leftover white wine would go amazingly with this bad boy! You can add one half cup of dry white wine to the rice after you’ve toasted it; let it cook for a few minutes and nearly absorb the wine before then adding the first ladleful of stock.

Can we talk about how amazing saffron is? This was my first time cooking with it. Obviously, it’s an investment. The .3 ounces of Spice Islands saffron threads I bought – the whole of which I used in this recipe – sell for $12.99 at my local grocery store and fill a tiny little pouch dwarfed by the glass spice container they come in. You don’t need to use a whole teaspoon of saffron; a half of a teaspoon would still produce color and flavoring, but I decided to go big or go home! Mostly because I bought that saffron what? about a year ago? for another recipe in one of my cookbooks that I’d been meaning to cook and never had. Rather than risk wasting any of this precious gold of the spice world, I decided to throw it all in. And I was glad I did, because it produced a vibrancy of flavor – almost a spiciness beyond its initial mildness. It is hard to describe the flavor of saffron! But it’s a fun thing to experience for yourself and cook with at least once if you never have.

Worth noting: as with many of my recipes that call for stock, I used homemade vegetable stock. You can see how easy it is to make your own vegetable stock out of collected vegetable scraps in my Spicy Black Bean Soup recipe post. Because I don’t add salt to my homemade stock when I make it, I often end up adding more salt to the recipes I use it in than I do when I use a premade stock – something to keep in mind if you use a store-bought option instead. The latter can contain quite a bit of sodium, so if you opt to use one of those or a homemade stock with salt added, you may want to salt to taste.

For the roasted tomatoes:

-1 quart of grape tomatoes

-1 tsp. grapeseed oil

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. black pepper

Remaining risotto ingredients:

-1 medium onion, diced

-2 cloves of garlic, minced

-1 tbs. grapeseed oil

-1 1/2 cups arborio rice

-6 cups vegetable stock

-2 tightly-packed cups fresh spinach

-1 tsp. (or less) saffron threads

-1 tsp. salt

-cracked pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the grape tomatoes in a bowl with the noted amounts of grapeseed oil, salt, and pepper, then add them to a baking pan or cookie sheet and roast for thirty minutes. If they are done before the risotto is, you can reduce the heat to the warm setting on your oven and let them sit until it is; that will make them extra-deliciously caramelized and tender.

To a large pot over medium heat, add the tablespoon of grapeseed oil, onion, and garlic; let cook for about four minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the rice and let it toast for a minute or two, then start the process of adding the stock – a ladleful or two at a time, about every five minutes. It’s an intuitive process that will likely take about 30 to 40 minutes. Add enough stock each time so that the rice is well-moistened but not so much that the rice is swimming in it and boiling rather than absorbing. Stir regularly to avoid too much rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning (inevitable to some degree, from my experience!) and adjust the burner heat as needed. The practice of making risotto is the perfect relaxed, lulling experience for a cozy fall weekend afternoon when you have nowhere you need to be – pop in a movie, and get cooking!

Once all of the stock has been ladled in and absorbed and the risotto is nice and creamy, fold in the roasted tomatoes, spinach, saffron threads, salt, and cracked pepper. Curl up in your coziest attire and buon appetito! Makes about four generous servings.

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