Italian cuisine is often characterized as driven by seasons and being focused on very few ingredients in each dish. There are pasta dishes like Spaghetti Carbonara which fall under this category. For us the dish which symbolizes this philosophy most is risotto – the Italian way to cook rice.
There are many different ingredients one can use for a good risotto but ultimately only three of them are really required to make a risotto:
- Rice: There are many different rice varieties in Italy but outside of Italy you normally get only two varieties easily – Carnaroli and Arborio. Carnaroli is often considered the supreme variety for risotto and is also the preferred one in restaurants. Arborio is the most well-known rice variety and considered the “standard” risotto rice also due to its good availability.
- Stock: Cooks often use homemade stock (often chicken stock) but some also prefer just plain water so that the taste of the stock doesn’t interfere with the mild taste of the risotto. Since making your own stock is not always possible, commercially available stock is also good enough especially if you dilute it with water to lower the salt content and to soften the flavor.
- Parmesan: Parmesan added at the end of the cooking to the risotto is important to get the flavorfulness. The parmesan should be freshly grated and the real thing: Parmigiano-Reggiano.
These three ingredients are already enough to make the classic “parent” risotto – risotto al bianco. All other risottos are just more complex variations of this white risotto.
Risotto with sausages (risotto con salsiccia) is eaten throughout Italy but is specifically well known for the Tuscany region and considered a winter dish. It is in general a good showcase of two specialities of Italy – risotto and charcuterie. If you are doing your own charcuterie this dish is a perfect way to use your home-made sausage. This is something we are looking forward to try ourselves in the future. But even good store-bought sausages will work fine in this dish. In this case we used mild Italian sausages which had a nice subtle fennel flavor that worked well with the red wine and the parmesan. This sausage risotto is a good example of a dish which doesn’t look great on photos but tasted outstanding.
Heat two tablespoons of butter in a pot at medium-low heat and cook onions and sausages for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until onions start to turn translucent. At the same time bring diluted beef broth to boil and keep it a low simmer during the whole cooking process.
Add the rice and cook with stirring for two minutes until grains start to become translucent.
Pour in red wine and cook until it has evaporated.
Add one ladle of hot stock and cook with stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice.
Repeat adding one ladle of hot stock at a time and wait until it is absorbed before adding more stock. Continue until the rice is tender and the risotto has the desired consistency. This can take between 20-30 minutes and not all broth will be used. When the rice is tender remove pot from heat, add parmesan and remaining tablespoon of butter, let sit for 2-3 minutes and then serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from “The Silver Spoon”
1.5 L (6 cups) diluted beef broth
3 tbsp butter
½ onion, diced
150 g (5 oz) Italian sausages, skinned and crumbled
250 g (9 oz) Arborio risotto rice
100 mL (3/8 cup) red wine
20 g (1 oz) parmesan cheese, freshly grated