It is amazing how a few everyday ingredients can come together to make an amazing side dish with very little effort. That is what you'll find in this tasty Mediterranean rice recipe. It's a perfect side to any main course and easy enough for busy weeknights.
The dish features the simple Mediterranean flavors of basil, oregano, tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella, and Parmesan, which create a party for your taste buds. It's so good that taste-testers even swear that it can outshine nearly any entree. Best of all, it couldn't be easier to make and will stay hot for 30 minutes if you keep it covered.
- 1 1/2 cups rice (arborio)
- 1/2 cup sweet onion (diced)
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons oregano (fresh, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 tablespoons basil (fresh, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 teaspoon salt (kosher, or to taste)
- 1 pint tomatoes (cherry or grape, cut in half)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded; asiago or Italian blend cheese)
- 8 ounces spinach (baby, stem tips removed)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (fresh, grated)
- Optional: 1/4 cup parsley (fresh, chopped)
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat an 11- by 13-inch glass or ceramic casserole dish with butter-flavored vegetable spray.
- Add the rice and onions to the casserole. Add melted butter and stir until all of the rice is coated.
- Stir the oregano, basil, and salt into the chicken broth. Pour over the rice. Evenly place the halved tomatoes over the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the rice is al dente.
- Remove from the oven and fold the mozzarella cheese and baby spinach into the hot rice until it's evenly distributed. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Tips and Variations
A recipe like this is not set in stone. There are a number of substitutions available that you can use to either fit your diet or what's in your pantry at the moment.
- Olive oil may be substituted for the butter.
- The arborio rice can be replaced with another white rice or a white and wild rice blend. For an interesting change of pace, try this recipe with orzo and skip the rice completely.
- At first, it may seem like this is too much spinach for the dish. Keep in mind that the heat will wilt down the spinach to a fraction of its former amount. Also, the spinach is added last in order to preserve its nutrients, color, and texture.
- Broccoli makes a great substitute for the spinach. If you choose this route, add the broccoli along with the tomatoes. Frozen broccoli does not need to be thawed.
- Feel free to add some pressed garlic for an extra punch in flavor.
- If you wish to make this a vegetarian dish, simply switch from chicken to vegetable broth.