Risotto is, by my mind, a total comfort food. It’s delicious, carb-y (admit it, carbs make us all happy) and can be made with pretty much any ingredients you have laying around. I’m sure someone reading this is thinking REALLY?! Three risotto recipes in three months?! I know. I’m predictable!
This recipe is actually inspired by a pizza you can get at a local restaurant near to where my parents live called Buco Pizzeria. This pizza is so good it lives in my dreams sometimes! I was craving it one morning while going grocery shopping and fennel and sausage miraculously ended up in my cart.
Parmesan Risotto with Sausage and Fennel
Serves 4 for $10.98, or $2.75 per serving
1/2 an onion- $0.12
~1 cup of arborio rice- $0.80
1/2 cup of parmesan (grated)- $3.38
1.5 boxes of vegetable stock- $2.21
2 Links of italian sausage – $2.00
1 fennel bulb- $2.47
Pantry Items: salt, pepper, chili flakes, olive oil, dried thyme
Like any delicious risotto, start by getting your mise en place together. So dice up those onions small, mince your garlic, grab out your rice and have olive oil, salt and pepper nearby.
Put your onions in your pot on medium with olive oil and sweat about halfway, then add garlic. If you’re me, at this point you’ll add a generous pinch of chili flakes and a good dash of dried thyme. Once these onions and garlic are good and sweated out, add your rice to toast. You want your rice to be such that the edges of your rice are translucent while the interior of the grain is still white. This will ensure that your rice cooks properly.
Once your rice is toasted, deglaze the pot with either the stock listed above, or dry white wine if you have some in the house. Continue to add a ladle-full of stock and stir occasionally while it bubbles off.
Next, we’re going to decase and drop our Italian sausage into a frying pan. This go-around I used my electric skillet but you’ll get the same effect from a frying pan. You want to have your pan to be pretty hot because you want to get really nice crispy bits on your sausage.
While you get your sausage going and broken up, slice your fennel cross-bulb after trimming the base and tops off and removing the outer case. Slice it about a pinky finger width thick.
If you have a humongous bulb, slice your ribs in half so that you don’t look like a heathen eating them, and rinse them well under cold water.
Let’s not forget during this process to keep tending to our risotto too. Every time you add stock, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir regularly.
Once your fennel is rinsed, add it to the pan with your sausage when it looks about 80% done with some good color and crispness starting to show in the meat. This fennel is going to pick up on that yummy flavor from the pan that the sausage leaves behind.
At the end of the day, you want your fennel to pick up delicious brown caramelization. By this point your risotto should be close to done. Test the grains with your teeth- if they’re smooth and don’t stick to your teeth and have no crunch, they’re done. Turn off the heat and stir in your parmesan. Feel free to cut down on the parmesan if you don’t want it as intensely flavored or if your budget is a bit tight. I don’t finish with butter in this case as the meat has enough velvety fat, but to each their own.
To serve, I put a spoonful of each component on the plate and dig in. Nothing fancy here, just delicious comfort food to warm you up.