May 16, 2010

Italian Fried Rice


I live in New York City. Home to various enclaves of actual Italians from Italy and their glorious cuisine. There is even a neighborhood in Manhattan known as “Little Italy.” Where that ends and Chinatown starts, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s beside the point.

How unlikely, then, that my most memorable Italian meal this year happened in exotic Danbury, Connecticut! Castello Restaurant is…interesting. It’s like…your grandmother’s dining room…but in a garage…over an office…but really awkward…so not so much your grandmother’s dining room as your grandmother-in-law’s.

But the food is good, so you find yourself back there after enough time has passed that you’re able to convince yourself it wasn’t really so weird. Indeed, I’ve found myself haunted (in a good way!) by the last thing I ate at Castello: the Pappardelle al Fungi, or homemade pasta with spinach, portobello, walnuts and mascarpone sauce. It had some greens in there too, and I remember just loving the delicate flavors and the variety of textures.

Since I can’t just go to CT for dinner any old time, I figured I’d take a stab at recreating the dish, or at least creating a dish that incorporated my favorite elements of Castello’s pappardelle. In other words, no, I am not about to try making my own pasta in my Brooklyn galley kitchen. Rice, however—that I can do!


Italian Fried Rice


  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (aka 1 cup dry rice, cooked)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ~ 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
  • handful chopped walnuts (~1/2 cup)
  • handful raisins
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice from 1/4 lemon, or about 1 tbsp
  • nutritional yeast/vegan parm or parmesan cheese for topping


  1. Heat oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add garlic and let it sizzle and cook for a minute or two.
  2. Add spinach, walnuts and raisins and saute until spinach is thawed and coated with oil.
  3. Add rice, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Stir-fry for several minutes, until warmed through and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste to make sure it’s hot enough, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Serves 3-4


This dish had the luscious rice factor of a risotto and my favorite flavors from the beloved pappardelle dish, but that’s probably where the resemblance to Italian food ends. But hey, I’m a New Yorker, and if Little Italy can share a neighborhood with Chinatown, then I can make Italian food in my wok.


Erica said...

This looks DELICIOUS and sounds super easy. mm mmm the creaminess that is risotto in a simpler form? I'm in. BTW- that restaurant sounds totally wacky but in a fun way- love it ;)

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious!!!

Next time I'm visiting la familia in CT I'll have to try that odd place out. Should I? :)

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Diana that looks great...and for a second i was shocked to see you used rice. LOL. I thought there was a trick and this was going to be cauli rice or something :)

The whole things about recipes being lifted and that we really dont know that they are, yes, indeed. It's such a sucky thing.

I hope you are doing well...i know you signed that lease. Hopefully move day is just around the corner and you're packing and getting ready!

Gabriela said...

I've often wondered the same thing about Chinatown and Little Italy- it took my forever to figure out that Nolita is north of it! This looks delicious though, a creamy rice dish is always such great comfort food!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big rice person but with the walnuts, raisins, and spinach, this sounds like it might make me love the stuff. I have always been obsessed with pasta, although not so much as of late. This post does make me want to try the recipe, but it also makes me want a giant bowl of fancy, creamy Italian pasta. Some foods never get old.

Shannon said...

what an intriguing and delicious combo! hope all is well :)

sophia said...

I've been in Little Italy. There's always people standing outside the restaurants inviting us to eat in their place. I MUST visit this place sometime. Pappardelle al Fungi?! Oh wow, orgasmic! Meanwhile, I'll just stick to your awesome fried rice. Love the crunchy walnuts in there!

Jackie (Peaces of Earth) said...

Makes me miss NY...and Italian-ness. I'm totally in the San Diego/Mexican food zone, but Grandma's coming to visit from Long Island in a couple of weeks so I might need to brush up on my Italian skills. This looks perfect!

Lisa is Raw on $10 a Day (or less!) said...

This looks really good ... creamy and savory, yum.

The weird restaurant sounded cool!

Ilana said...

That looks fabulous. I am so that person who takes home rice and stares at it and never knows what to do with it. I have some leftover right now. Might give it a shot! Thanks!

Fayinagirl (means Free One) said...

Hmm, I kinda dig weird little places. Sounds like you found a good one. ;-)

Great creativity in that rice dish, girlie! Love it =D

Sophie @ yumventures said...

I love this non-Asian fried rice! YUM!

Mo Diva said...

come to mama!
i love rice in all forms and especially fried rice. I would love to give this unique plate a taste!

Melanie @ I Dream of Tahini said...

Wow that looks incredibly yummy!! I love the flavor combinations!

Gena said...

So now I know what's for dinner tomorrow or on Friday. This looks amaaaaaazing, and I cannot wait to try it!

ajlounyinjurylaw said...

I'm going to try out this recipe or better yet, go down to Little Italy and find it at one of the many Italian restaurants in that area.