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Warm spinach artichoke dip is extra creamy, with a little added zip

Spinach artichoke dip can be served hot or cold. In this recipe, crushed red pepper flakes and smoked paprika add a hint of spice and smoke.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
Spinach artichoke dip can be served hot or cold. In this recipe, crushed red pepper flakes and smoked paprika add a hint of spice and smoke. (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Aaron Hutcherson Washington Post

Creamy spinach and artichoke dip is always a hit. It’s one of the first things I reach for at parties, and if I’m the one throwing the event, I love enjoying leftover dip – if there is any – for the days to come. Though it’s also good cold, I love the warm and melty version of this appetizer with sturdy pita chips or crackers for dipping. This spinach artichoke dip recipe is pretty classic and straightforward, but I offer a couple small twists to take it to another level.

Outside the two star ingredients in the dish’s name, the only other thing you absolutely need is some sort of dairy product to bind it all together. Though, you could also try vegan, nondairy alternatives in place of the animal products. I settled on cream cheese, sour cream, mozzarella and a salty cheese such as Parmesan or pecorino Romano, for a nice blend of creaminess, meltiness and flavor.

Crushed red pepper flakes and smoked paprika (not shocking if you’ve been following my recipes) add a hint of spice and smoke for extra intrigue. Lastly, I’ve cut the richness with a bit of acid in the form of hot sauce that also adds a little zip. I recommend a mild Cajun-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot, for flavor without much heat, though you could opt for another bottle if you want more of a kick.

And if you’re really spice averse, you can use less than what I recommend or leave it out entirely.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

One (11-ounce) package fresh spinach, chopped, or one (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted, drained and chopped

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

One (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup (1 ounce) finely grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

½ cup (4 ounces) sour cream

1 tablespoon Cajun-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot (optional)

Crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips and/or celery sticks, for serving

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering.

Add the artichoke hearts and spinach and sprinkle with the garlic powder, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has wilted and most of the liquid released from the vegetables has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.

You may have to add the spinach in batches, adding more as it wilts.

Turn off the heat under the skillet. Add the cream cheese, mozzarella and pecorino or Parmesan cheeses, and stir until melted and evenly combined.

Stir in the sour cream and hot sauce, if using, until evenly combined. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.

Place a baking rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler and set the oven to broil. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned in spots. If your broiler is on the bottom, transfer the skillet to the broiler drawer.

Let cool slightly before serving with crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips and/or celery sticks.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings (about 4 cups)

Make ahead: The dip can be assembled and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Heat in a 400-degree oven until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes, before broiling.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

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