Creamy Three Cheese Risotto with Bacon, Spinach and Tomato

(Serves about 4)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
12-ounce package Apple Smoked Bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons of bacon drippings
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 teaspoon dry Italian seasoning
4 cups chicken stock, hot
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup sugarplum cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablepsoon butter
1 cup shaved Parmesan, Romano and Asiago Cheese blend, divided use
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided use

Preparation:

-In a large, heavy pan set over medium-high heat, add 1tablespoon of the olive oil and the chopped bacon, and cook the bacon until it becomes crisp; once crisp, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain and set aside; reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings, discarding the remainder, and clean out the pan.

-Place the same, clean pan onto medium-high heat, and add the remaining 1tablespoon of olive oil plus the 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings; once hot, add the chopped onion and allow to sweat for about 2 minutes.

-Once onion has sweated, add the garlic and stir until fragrant; then add in the Arborio rice, stirring the rice to allow to toast for about 1 minute in the onion and garlic; once toasted, add the white wine to deglaze the pan, and once most of the wine is evaporated, add the Italian seasoning, stir, and begin adding the hot chicken stock to the rice, a couple of small ladle’s at a time, stirring gently to allow the stock to absorb; once stock is nearly absorbed, add another increment of hot stock, and stir to incorporate, repeating this process until all of the stock is used, and the risotto is creamy and cooked through with a slight “bite” to it, about 23 minutes.

-Once risotto is creamy and cooked through, turn the heat off and fold in the lemon zest, spinach, cherry tomatoes, butter and ½ cup of the shaved 3-cheese blend; stir to combine, then finish by adding half of the cooked bacon and half of the chopped parsley, and fold in.

To Plate:

-Spoon risotto to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining bacon and parsley; garnish with additional shaved cheese, if desired.