This risotto combines mango chicken sausage with roasted red peppers for a sweet, filling, simple meal. It comes together fairly quickly and will give you plenty of comfort-food leftovers! I make it often for Mark when his work schedule is nightly, because it’s easy for him to reheat when he has to eat dinner earlier than I get home from work.
As I mentioned in my last risotto post, Springtime Risotto with leeks and peas, risotto makes great leftovers. It reheats very well and a little goes a long way ~ if you ask me, it actually tastes better a day old. In Italy, this is a popular lunch choice, especially for kids who come home between morning and afternoon classes to eat. (My springtime risotto post has great step-by-step risotto instructions for first timers, so definitely check it out if you’re new to making risotto and want a simple breakdown. There’s no reason to be intimidated by this dish ~ it’s simpler than people make it sound!)
They key ingredient is real Arborio rice, not regular white or brown rice. Arborio is an Italian short-grain rice that is high in starch and absorbs lots of liquid to give you a creamy finished product. When I lived in Italy, I learned that risotto is truly a staple — you can throw just about any leftover veggies into it with whatever meat or seafood sounds good to you (if any).
The second key ingredient is stock, which you’ll add warm to the rice in stages. I have used both vegetable and chicken stock when making risotto, depending on the crowd I’m serving (veg or otherwise). Both taste just fine; I’d only recommend that you stay away from low-sodium broth unless you absolutely have to for health reasons, because risotto needs all the flavor boost it can get, and seasonings are important.
Once the stock boils, you’ll want to keep it at a medium simmer — not so high that it starts to burn off, but not so low that it cools down, either. You need it hot to mix into the risotto properly.
I cook the sausage and red peppers together when I have non-vegetarians eating the dish, and separately when it’s for folks who don’t want the meat touching the veggies. Since you’re adding it all into the pot at the end anyway, it doesn’t affect how the dish turns out. And you can use any kind of sausage you like! Real, fake, chicken or pork, spicy or sweet. I often make this meal with roasted red pepper sausage, which I find at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, when I want a savory version. I’m pretty sure you could find similar in the natural grocery section of any store.
First you’ll saute the chopped onions until translucent (you can also use leeks) in a liberal amount of olive oil and butter; each helps the other not to burn. Then, by adding the rice to the buttery onions before adding any liquid, you help coat the risotto with fat which will prevent that mushy starchy thing from happening. Then, you’ll add a splash of white wine. You can also omit the wine if you need to, although most of the alcohol will burn off and very little is retained in the final dish. After the wine, you’ll do a cup of water before you start adding the simmering broth. When you add liquid, stir immediately until the rice absorbs it and before it can stick to the bottom of the pan.
By repeating over and over in small increments until the rice has absorbed all the broth in the pan, you’ll achieve that creamy yet slightly al dente perfection of authentic risotto! Add in your meat and veggies, then top with freshly grated parmesan and pecorino cheese (which is nice and salty), and serve warm.
Mango Chicken Risotto
hands-on time: 30 minutes Serves: 4
- 2 cups arborio rice (1 package from Trader Joe’s)
- 1 large carton (or 2 cans) vegetable stock
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, diced and seeded
- 1 package mango chicken sausage (or any kind you like), sliced thin
- parmesan and pecorino cheese, roughly grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- water, as needed
- olive oil and butter
- splash of white wine (optional)
Set a sauce pan on medium-high and pour in the stock. Once it reaches boiling, reduce heat and keep the stock at a low simmer, so it doesn’t burn off but stays warm. I usually add two cups of water to the broth a well, to help it go farther.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and add it to a large stock pot with equal parts olive oil and butter; stir until melted, well coated and translucent.
Chop the red peppers and slice the sausage and start cooking over medium-low in a saute pan on another burner. You can cook these separately if you have vegetarians eating this; that way, you customize each plate.
Add all the rice at once and stir to coat.
Pour a healthy splash of white wine into the pan and stir briskly to reduce. Next, add about a cup of water and stir until absorbed.
Then, start adding the simmering stock, one cupful at a time, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.
Once the stock is gone, taste test; if the rice is too al dente, add water gradually until it achieves the right texture — firm but not stiff, and before it gets soggy.
Grate parmesan and pecorino directly into the pan. Pick a not-too-small grater and be heavy handed with the cheese.
Taste; add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with white wine or a nice cold beer!