On Sunday morning, I (as usual) had a Barefoot Contessa episode playing while I was getting myself organized for the day. Ina was making a spring vegetable risotto, which caused Wright to immediately request risotto for dinner that night. I'd planned to make dinner family-style for a group of friends before we caught up on Lost (!!), so that seemed like a reasonable request, but I couldn't help groaning on the inside.
I've made risotto before, and while it's always a fun (though monotonous) adventure, I've never been completely satisfied with it. Sure, everyone else has loved it - but to me it ends up being kind of boring after the third or fourth bite. It becomes too vegetable-y, too mushroom-y, too risotto-y. I like to have meals where each bite is a little different. I really, really wanted to like risotto - it just looks and smells and sounds so good! - so I kept trying it, and was continually disappointed.
Until this recipe. This recipe took risotto out of the box for me. At first, I was a doubter. Sausage in risotto? Nah, couldn't work without tasting like meat glop. Canned diced tomatoes? Blah, salty and too tomato-y. Cooked spinach? Not my cup of tea. But I was proved wrong. The risotto was hearty, meaty, flavorful, and delicious - with none of the asparagus overload or constant mushroom mush situations I was used to. The spinach and basil helped it feel fresh and light, while the sausage (I used a mix of sweet and hot) kept each bite interesting.
Since we had a group of five, I doubled the original recipe and was glad I did - we actually did not have very much left. The recipe below should serve six. I also decided to punch up the flavor a bit by adding garlic and hot sauce in addition to the two sausages. I wouldn't be afraid to use all hot sausage, but of course, I'm not really a spicy person so I love the sweet. Now, I know what you are thinking, this is not the most ideal meal for a dinner party, as you are a slave to the pan for about an hour, but the end result it worth it (and it can be fun to give non-cooks a turn stirring!). The most important part is to have lots of fresh parmesan and basil on hand for serving. Oh, and keep stirring!
Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes (in juice)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1.5 lbs sausage, casings removed (hot or sweet Italian)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated parmesan (plus extra for serving)
5-10 dashes hot sauce (optional)
1 bunch spinach, washed and stems removed
1 bunch basil, washed and julienned
1. Combine tomatoes with six cups of water and bring to a boil, then let simmer on the stove.
2. Sauté the onion in olive oil in a wide stockpot or pan (large enough to fit all of your risotto).
Once translucent, add sausage and let brown, then add garlic. Add about a teaspoon of pepper
3. Add rice to the pan and stir around, "toasting" the rice.
4. Add white wine to the pan. Stir and let reduce/soak into the rice for about 3-5 minutes.
5. Add about two cups of the simmering tomatoes/water to the pan and stir continuously, until all of the liquid has soaked into the rice. Continue to add the liquid, a cup or two at a time, until the rice is completely cooked through (about 25-35 minutes, be sure to test it by trying some!). You may have leftover tomatoes/water. Add salt and pepper to taste as you are stirring it.
6. Stir in parmesan, butter, hot sauce, and spinach.
7. Serve immediately in bowls, topped with extra parmesan and basil