Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Bacon Risotto

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When it comes to risotto, there’s an awful lot of intimidating talk about right and wrong. This makes me sad, because I think it scares a lot of people away from a fairly quick and wonderful staple meal – and not just people who already think it’s adorable to say they store their shoes and guest linens in the oven.

I’ve made many a risotto in my day, and I can’t say I’d unflinchingly serve every one to Lydia Bastianich; but as far as I know, no one has ever walked away a worse person for having eaten some. Risotto is as versatile as a frittata for showcasing a huge variety of veggies; so it’s worth having a basic recipe in your repertoire and an adventurous spirit that allows you to riff. This caramelized onion, spinach, and bacon risotto is a little extra special.

Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Bacon Risotto 780 | Umami Girl


Stir your risotto frequently, but don’t obsess over it. There’s a myth that risotto cooks all day, but a basic recipe (sans caramelized onions) really only takes about 20 minutes.

Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Bacon Risotto 780 | Umami Girl-2

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Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Bacon Risotto

This deeply flavored, super-savory risotto is one of our favorites. It takes longer than some of our other risottos because of the caramelized onions, but you can make them up to a couple of days in advance if you like.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 6


  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 10 ounces thick-cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine you like to drink
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Halve the onions lengthwise and then thinly slice each half crosswise, to form lots of thin half-circles. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, along with the olive oil, in a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the onions and a big pinch of salt, and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until they are dramatically reduced in volume and well on their way to turning a deep golden brown. You may need to reduce the heat to low after a while to prevent them from burning. You can ignore the onions for a while, but watch them carefully at the end, as they will start to change more quickly. When nearly done, pour in Marsala and continue cooking until evaporated. You can do this step up to a couple days in advance if you like and store onions tightly covered in the fridge.
  3. Meanwhile, dice bacon and place in another large frying pan . Cook over medium heat until just crispy, then remove bacon from pan and set aside. Pour off most of the bacon grease from the pan, leaving two tablespoons.
  4. To the pan with the bacon grease, add the rice and stir to coat with fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes, until some of the rice grains are translucent.
  5. Raise heat to medium-high. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed.
  6. Add chicken stock, about a cup at a time, and stir frequently. Wait until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rest turned into a starchy-looking broth before adding the next ladle-full of stock.
  7. After the last addition of stock, continue to stir until the rice is tender, with a little chewy bite, and there is still some thick, glossy broth.
  8. Add the spinach along with the reserved bacon and caramelized onions and and stir for less than a minute, until spinach is just wilted.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining two tablespoons butter and the grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest for just a couple of minutes and serve in shallow bowls with extra grated cheese to pass at the table.

Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 537 Total Fat:: 28.1g Carbohydrates:: 51.1g Fiber:: 2.7g Protein:: 15.2g

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  1. martha

    my boyfriend and i both LOVED the risotto. the caramelized onions gave it a depth like no other risotto i’ve ever made. i put about a 1/2 tsp of bacon fat in just for the essence of bacon and added about 4 cloves of garlic. it was world class!

  2. Hi Martha, thank you! I’m not in the habit of adding garlic to risotto, but there’s no reason not to, you’re right. (Lord knows I add it to everything else, so I’m not sure why the restraint here.) Hope you enjoy the risotto.

  3. martha

    your website looks terrific. interesting stuff about stirring constantly vs, not and adding the wine early vs late.
    i already cooked the spinach so will strain the excess water out of it then chop it before adding.
    no garlic,???
    i think i might leave out the bacon and add garlic.

  4. Diana Pappas

    want. that. bacon.

  5. umami girl

    j.f.: Depends what you mean by quick. It’s not microwave burrito quick, but the time from the first addition of liquid to the end of the recipe shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes. Everyone seems to have a great grandpa whose risotto took six hours to make, but he must have been harvesting and polishing the grains before cooking. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Johnny Falschgedank

    I wouldn’t say I’m scared by risotto… but I don’t think of it as quick. Am I doing something wrong?