So. Before I first attempted making it, I always found risotto to be quite intimidating – I mean, think of all those poor saps who have been ripped a new one by Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen for sub-par risotto! And those people are trained chefs and cooks! Anyways, once I just got over myself and tried risotto, I discovered it was… not hard. And also – SO DAMN DELICIOUS. I have yet to meet a carb or cheese product that I don’t like, so creamy carbs + lots of cheese = my idea of heaven.
I came across this recipe a year or two ago, and it sat in my “Main Dishes” email folder for a good long time before I decided to try it. Once I made it the first time, it earned a spot on my list of favorite dinners – it’s not super time consuming, the majority of the ingredients are things I almost always have on hand, it’s REALLY tasty, and it makes enough to serve my husband and I for dinner (please keep in mind that his serving size is twice the size of mine… and I ain’t no slouch, in the eatin’ department), as well as a day or two of lunches for him.
This recipe came from one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen – who adapted it from Martha Stewart Everyday Food. You would be kind to feign surprise when I tell you I ALSO altered the recipe slightly. I’m going to post it as I made it, and I’ll note the changes I made.
Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
2 cans (14 ounces each) fire-roasted, diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
- In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper (a large pinch of salt – maybe 8-10 grinds of pepper). Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
- Add about 2-3 ladles of hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1-2 ladles at a time, waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid). I typically wait until I’ve used 2/3 of the liquid before I do my first test for done-ness, and then work from there.
- Remove pan from heat. Stir in Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.
First, a few notes about making risotto – it will take a little while to make it properly. If you don’t have the time to watch it and stir it and let the rice get all starchy and creamy, then maybe make it another night. You really can’t rush it. That being said – don’t worry if some of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot (I don’t use non-stick pans, so maybe this doesn’t happen if you use non-stick? Perhaps Crist can weigh in on this?). This will more than likely happen, if you keep your heat at medium-low – but once you have a little layer of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, it sort of protects the rest of your rice (and allows you to keep the heat at medium-low, so that making the risotto doesn’t take 3 hours).
I used fire-roasted tomatoes, because I like the smoky flavor they have. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can use regular diced tomatoes (or petite diced, or diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, or, or, or). If you pull everything out to start making your risotto and realize you only have one can of tomatoes, just use more water – the end product will be slightly less tomato-y, but still delicious.
I prefer to use italian turkey sausage (I use Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausage), instead of pork sausage. Let’s get one thing straight here – I have nothing against pork, and I use (LOTS) of bacon on the regular. I love me some pork. But, for my average weeknight dinner, I try not to go SUPER overboard with the heavy meals, so I use turkey sausage where I can (I think the Jennie-O hot Italian turkey sausage is really flavorful and delicious, but that might just be me). However, you can feel free to use pork sausage if that makes your heart go pitter-patter. Also, I have made this recipe with anywhere from 1/2 pound to a full pound of sausage, depending on what I have on hand. Don’t stress about using exactly 3/4 pound.
The original recipe calls for 7 cups of baby spinach, to be stirred in at the end (once you’ve taken the pot off the heat, when you’re stirring in the Parmesan). Personally, I DESPISE the texture of cooked spinach, so I leave this out, with no ill effects. If I’m on top of my game and happen to have some fresh basil in the house (read: ALMOST NEVER), I will chop that up and sprinkle it on top. If not, no big deal.
Additionally, the original recipe calls for 2T of butter to be stirred in at the end. I’ve done it before, and I haven’t detected a noticeable difference in the flavor or texture of the final dish, so I leave it out.
And finally, the Parmesan. OF COURSE you are going to sprinkle each individual dish with extra Parmesan! A.) it looks pretty, and B.) MORE CHEESE. However, I do urge you to buy the real deal when it comes to Parmesan, and grate it yourself. When it’s freshly grated, the flavor is just so much nuttier and saltier and MORE AWESOME than the stuff that is pre-grated. I know those little chunks are pricey, but they will last you through several meals, and they are so, so worth it.
And now… go forth and make risotto! You won’t regret it, I promise.