A classic recipe for Greek spanakorizo, a spinach and rice dish served in a tomato base.
If we were to assign a relationship status to each of our parents’ recipes, the one for spanakorizo would definitely read “it’s complicated”. You see, as children, we hated this dish almost as much as we love it now. And we didn’t just, not like it…no. The mention of spanakorizo for supper, or the smell of it cooking for lunch, elicited a physical response which included gagging and waves of nausea. The upside is that our visceral dislike for spanakorizo did support sibling connectedness, as we all worked together to rid ourselves of the vile meal without actually having to consume much of it. Many a times, a diversion was created, just enough of a distraction to allow us to wrap some of the spanakorizo in a paper towel and toss it in the trash. Our poor parents. We don’t think they ever caught on.
Anyhow, I guess we were pretty dumb kids because really, spanakorizo is anything but gross. It is a classic, easy, nutritious dish which reminds us that simple, wholesome ingredients can come together to create something which is pretty darn good. The name spanakorizo is a composite of the two key ingredients: spanaki meaning spinach and rizi meaning rice. There are a few other things thrown in of course, but the main stars are the greens and grain. Despite admitting that our childhood-selves loathed this meal, we hope that you do give it a try. Remember, today we crave it! And for the record, when we made spanakorizo for our kids when they were little, they loved it and would gobble it all up….we think.
When the snow is gone and the weather is warm, our parents plant and then tend to their bountiful garden. One of the most amazing things that our parents grow is spinach; wonderful not only because it is so good for us, but also because once cut, it grows back! An endless (almost) supply of fresh, organic, deliciousness.
Of course, if you don’t have spinach growing in your garden, you can use what you find in the market. Try to select spinach which looks fresh, is not wilted and does not have any brown or yellow leaves. If you do find the occasional spoiled leaf, just remove it.
When our parents use their own fresh spinach they do not remove the stem as it is quite tender. If, however, you find that store bought spinach leaves have tough stems, take the extra bit of time to cut them off, particularly if you will be serving this meal to young kids. There is nothing inherently wrong with the stem, and they are perfectly fine to eat, but they might be a little too tough for little mouths.
Wash your spinach thoroughly by filling a large bowl with water, dunking the spinach in it and swirling it around, a bit at a time. Do this a few times, with a fresh bowl of water each time, until the water in the bowl is clean and does not have any dirt or grit.
When you see the amount of spinach you need for this recipe your first reaction might be, “That’s a LOT of spinach”, and then you may worry that you don’t have a pot large enough to cook it in. But spinach, like most other greens, wilts quite a bit when cooked, and you go from thinking, “That’s a LOT of spinach” to “Where the heck is the spinach?”
Our parents make spanakorizo with their own bottled tomato sauce. If you don’t make your own tomato sauce, you can use a good quality tomato juice or passata. Your choice may affect the colour of your spanakorizo (the passata may result in a redder meal than the tomato juice), but either is really fine. Don’t worry about it too much.
Our parents’ spanakorizo is not dry. The spinach and rice bathe in the rich, tomato based sauce. This is the perfect time to grab a piece of bread and dunk away. Don’t worry, nobody is looking.
Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)
- sauce pot
- 3/4 cup long grain rice, uncooked
- 20 ounces (568 grams) chopped fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) Greek olive oil extra virgin
- 3-4 spring onions, chopped
- 2 cups (500 mL) tomato sauce
- 2 cups (500 mL) water
- salt and pepper to taste
- freshly squeezed lemon juice optional
- Rinse 3/4 cup rice in cold water and set aside.
- Rinse the chopped spinach well. Rinse the parsley. Set aside.
- In a large pot sauté in the 1/2 cup of olive oil the 3-4 spring onions for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that they do not burn. To the pot add the spinach and the 1/4 cup parsley. It may appear that there is too much spinach for the pot, but as it heats it will wilt and decrease in volume. Add rice on top of the spinach.
- Add 2 cups water and 2 cups tomato sauce to the pot. Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes. After 30 minutes check to see how much liquid is in the pot, and test to see if the rice is cooked. If the spanakorizo appears too liquidy, continue to cook, uncovered, for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, and let sit a few minutes before serving; The longer it sits, the more it will thicken up.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a side of feta if desired.