Stirring the soul…Risotto

Sausage and Mushroom Risotto Risotto con Salsicce e Funghi

Sausage and mushroom risotto

Back in the day, when I had no kids and a career (of sorts), I’d often come home after a particularly stressful day at work craving risotto. Not to eat it but to COOK it. Of course, eating it was always a pleasurable perk of cooking it, but the objective was to lose myself in the cooking process. There is something zen-like in the constant stirring and tending to risotto as it slowly simmers, allowing your mind to completely focus on the task at hand and forget the worries of the day.

These days, with three monkeys boys to chase after, my stresses are different and I don’t seem to find the time to zone out with a good risotto. Cooking risotto requires total dedication to the process. In my case, all the planets must also align to afford me the opportunity. If you don’t have at least half an hour to tend lovingly to the cooking of the risotto then this is not the dish for you. If you can put in the uninterrupted time however you may just find this a means of soothing your soul. Sipping a glass of wine whilst cooking doesn’t go astray either.

This sausage and mushroom risotto is a favourite in our house. If you can, source the Italian sausages from a good Italian butcher or deli. The type of Italian sausage is up to you but those with fennel or chilli will add another level of flavour to the finished dish. The tomato paste is totally optional. It will obviously change the colour and flavour of the finished dish but I include it because my husband won’t eat this risotto without it. He doesn’t find a white risotto as appealing. But then he also eats risotto with toast…each to their own!

Some risotto ingredients

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Serves: 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 Italian sausages

200 g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced

2 cups arborio rice

2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

200 ml dry white wine

2 litres beef stock

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

25 gm butter

Method

Prepare the sausages by cutting lengthwise through the casing and removing the meat.  Roughly chop the sausage meat and discard the casings.  Set meat aside.

Place stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Turn down to a low simmer and cover with a lid until required. The stock should remain at a simmer throughout the cooking process.

In a large non-stick dutch oven or deep frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Place the onions in the pan and cook slowly for about 5 minutes until they start to soften.  Stir occasionally.

When the onions are translucent and softened, add the sausage meat to the pan.  Cook the meat over high heat for 2-3 minutes to brown.  Stir occasionally, breaking up any large pieces of sausage with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

cooking the sausage and mushrooms

Once the meat starts to brown add the mushrooms to the pan.  Stir well to ensure the mushrooms are coated with oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Allow the mushrooms to soften and brown lightly, stirring occasionally.

Add the rice to the pan and stir constantly for about a minute.  The rice grains should be well coated with oil and become translucent.

adding the rice

If you are using the tomato paste, add it to the pan once the rice is translucent.  Stir well to distribute the paste and allow it to coat each rice grain.  Cook for about a minute, stirring often to ensure it does not burn.

Add the wine and stir the rice constantly until the liquid absorbs into the rice.

Once the wine has been absorbed, add a ladleful of the simmering stock. Stir the rice constantly for a couple of minutes until the stock is absorbed.  Add another ladleful of stock once the liquid in the dish has begun to disappear and the rice appears to be drying up, stirring constantly.

Continue in this way, adding stock and stirring, for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice has softened but still has some bite to it.  It should be slightly ‘al dente.’  Add the grated cheese and stir well.  Add a final ladle of stock and stir until almost absorbed.

Turn of the heat and put the butter on top of the rice.  Cover the pan with a lid and leave undisturbed for a few minutes until the butter has melted.  This is an important step in cooking risotto and cannot be left out.  In Italian it is known as ‘mantecare.’  Once the butter has melted, remove the lid and stir the risotto well.

adding the butter

Place on a flat plate to serve, topped with extra grated cheese and cracked pepper.  Serve immediately – risotto does not wait for anybody!

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