My cousin’s daughter, Bella, asked for a blank cookbook for Christmas this year. Blank so that she could fill it with her favorite recipes. I can relate to that, because my favorite all-time cookbook is one my grandmother, Myne, gave to me — it was filled with her most memorable recipes, plus plenty of blank pages where I could add my own.
Myne gave me this book aeons ago, when I was just starting out on my own. After all these years, it’s brittle and spattered with drips, spills and lots of use. The pages are yellowed — some are sticking together and the spine is broken. I love it. It’s one of the things I grab in case of a fire… As I was leafing through the book last week, I came across this recipe for Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip – the well-worn, splattered page reminded me of how often I used to make it and how delicious it is.
This isn’t my grandmother’s recipe — but rather one that I got from a friend of mine, who — I believe — got it from a restaurant where her husband worked. If this isn’t exactly the recipe, it’s a pretty damn close approximation to the Spinach Artichoke Dip from Houston’s Restaurant.
It’s also really damn rich, but that goes without saying, right? This recipe starts with a thick béchamel sauce — which the restaurant made with half and half, but you can also sub in regular milk for a slightly less indulgent dip (I’ve even used skim milk before without ill effect). Then you add the chopped spinach and chopped artichoke bottoms to the creamy sauce.
Next comes the cheese. Fontina and Parmesan…. I know…. Cut the fontina into a small dice, about 1/4″ – that way the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the dip. Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano adds a salty, umami bite.
This warm, melty, lush combo is absolutely addictive. The key is to bake it at a lower oven temperature so that it doesn’t get browned on top, but rather just until the cheese is transformed to molten pockets of goo. Oh-Ma-Gawd! Sublime. If you’re looking for Super Bowl party ideas – this is it!
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Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on how much heat you like
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 1/4 cups half and half can substitute milk to save calories
- 1 10- ounce package spinach frozen chopped , thawed
- 1 14- ounce can artichoke bottoms or artichoke hearts drained, patted dry with a paper towel and chopped
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated , divided
- 4 ounces fontina cheese cut into 1/4" dice, divided
- Preheat the oven to 300°.
- Place the thawed spinach into a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the ends and sides and hold the towel over the sink as you squeeze all the moisture out of the spinach. Set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly, about one minute. Add the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt and black pepper - cook for one minute until very fragrant. Add the half and half and cook, stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and add the spinach. Stir to combine. Add the artichokes, and most of the parmesan and fontina (reserve just a little of each to sprinkle on top of the dip.)
- Spray an ovenproof dish with vegetable spray. Transfer the dip to the dish and garnish with the reserved fontina and parmesan cheeses. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
- Let the dip cool slightly before serving with crackers or toasts.
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