Saffron Risotto with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Sausage

So I’ve decided that risotto isn’t hard, but I have to be in the mood.

Risotto nights follow a trend. Mr. Prevention works late, I pour a glass of wine and maybe grab a small wedge of cheese to nibble on, and I play my iPod to something along the lines of Party Rock Anthem.

Lily looks at me in complete surrender, as pancetta crisps on the stove top. My chicken broth (low sodium, fat-free!) and wine are simmering away, and to my amazement, the arborio rice slowly slurps up the liquid to a plumpy, creamy perfection.

As I babysat my risotto, I noticed something. The closer the risotto gets to being done, the more quickly it absorbs the liquid. One would think the opposite, but it’s not the case.

Just when I thought the rice couldn’t intake another milliliter…sllluuurrpp. It was gone.

Mr. Prevention walks in the door, amazed that dinner seemingly made itself. He asks, “What are you saving this loaf of bread for, babe?”

“To go with your risotto…right…now, my dear.” I say.

Risotto isn’t difficult, but takes a watchful eye. So pour yourself a glass of wine, blast your favorite, shameless tunes, and enjoy. It’s meals like this that remind me why I love cooking.

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Saffron Risotto with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Sausage adapted from Caitlin’s Cooking & More, as seen on Mrs. Reguerio’s Plate

2 oz pancetta, diced finely
1 tsp olive oil
2 links hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed and broken into small pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
pinch of saffron
1 cup of dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped finely

Directions:

In a small pot, heat the chicken broth and dry white wine to near boiling. Keep on a low simmer until ready to use.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp and remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Add sausage to the pan, and cook until completely browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the pan drippings in the pan.

Add the onions and cook until translucent, add the garlic and let cook for one minute. Add the rice, and stir to combine to make sure each grain is coated. Add the diced tomatoes and a pinch of saffron to the pan, make sure to rub the saffron between your fingers to break it up and intensify the flavor. Stir to combine.

Add one ladle at a time of the white wine/chicken broth mixture to the Dutch oven. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat procedure (stir and ladle) for around twenty minutes, until the rice is slightly tender to taste. The rice will produce a thick, creamy sauce in the course of cooking and stirring.

Bring to a lower simmer and stir in the sausage, heavy cream and parmigiano reggiano cheese. Serve immediately, and garnish with a sprinkle of parmigiano cheese, crispy pancetta, and freshly diced parsley. Yield: 4 servings (1 1/3 cups each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 452 calories; 16.3 g. fat; 65 mg. cholesterol; 590 mg. sodium; 42.8 g. carbohydrate; 1.8 g. fiber; 18.5 g. protein

Result: I’ve never cooked with saffron before, but it gave the most stunning ceramic color and subtle, savory flavor that compliments the turkey sausage and wine perfectly. Just a pinch went a lot way and I am feeling far less guilty for spending the $15 on the spice (I used about 1/6th of what I bought, or less). Next time, I think I would add another link of turkey sausage and leave out the pancetta, or just leave out the pancetta all together. I just don’t know that it added enough to justify the cost, calories, fat, and sodium. But, we loved this…very, very good! Enjoy!

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I can’t believe the weekend is up already. Lucky for me, I am off work today! That’s a very good thing because 1) Kristen may be the only person on earth who sleeps in less than me and late nights + early mornings a girl cannot do for long and 2) I need to lesson plan my little heart away. Classes begin in 9 days – eek!

Question: What was the highlight of your weekend?

It’s hard to choose but I’ll either go with goat cheese and cherry ice cream from the famous Jeni’s or scoring my first goal in ice-hockey in a very (embarrassingly long) time. The fact that my goal was with just a few seconds left in the game and on an empty net when we were up 5-3 is besides the point, right? 😉

Happy Monday! Have a great week!

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19 Comments

  1. September 12, 2011 / 8:02 am

    What a beautiful story of a meal! Mr. Prevention is one lucky guy, coming home to such a gorgeous dinner! 🙂

    Super impressed with the colors of this posh risotto… Bookmarked ASAP! 🙂 Thanks for reminding me it’s been too long since I’ve cooked risotto… and of the pleasures of cooking for cooking’s sake. 🙂

    Congratulations on your goal!! And goat cheese and cherry ice cream – WOW… 🙂 The highlight of my weekend was definitely pistachio gelato at our local Italian festival… It must have been a frozen confection weekend! 🙂

  2. September 12, 2011 / 8:20 am

    Normally risotto looks like a bowl of ugly mush but this looks SPECTACULAR! I’m riveted.

    Woot woot for scoring in hockey! I’m SO happy for you!

  3. September 12, 2011 / 10:51 am

    I agree– you have to be in a certain mood to make risotto. But when you ARE “in the mood”…there’s nothing better!!

  4. September 12, 2011 / 11:43 am

    Sounds like SUCH a relaxing evening of cooking. A glass of wine + hovering over te stove top is pure bliss. This looks amazingly delicious Nicole. Lily is too cute 🙂

  5. September 12, 2011 / 11:44 am

    Totally awesome Nicole! You captured the risotto so beautifully, and Lily always melts my heart anytime I see her in a post. Swoon. I need a dog in my life. stat.

  6. September 12, 2011 / 12:07 pm

    I never made risotto either until I met my Italian husband – his mom makes a really good one, and when she makes it for me, she subs in tiny diced green apple in place of the onions, and then tells me that it would be better if the onions were in there -ew!

    I love the flavor of saffron – worth the $$! I got to hang out with Hannah over the weekend – something that hardly ever happens! 😀

  7. September 12, 2011 / 2:39 pm

    Risotto is about my favorite food in the world. The ulimate comfort food! I make it often with friends and everyone wants more. Love the saffron idea. I’ll try that next time.

  8. September 12, 2011 / 3:20 pm

    Risotto is one of my favorites, but I agree, you have to be in the mood. I especially love Champagne risotto because I can sip a glass while it cooks!

  9. September 12, 2011 / 6:55 pm

    I love you for being able to cook awesome risotto but not rice. 🙂

  10. September 12, 2011 / 9:46 pm

    I have never made risotto but its on my list of things to try! Come to think of it I don’t think I have ever eaten it either!

  11. September 12, 2011 / 9:48 pm

    Such a beautiful risotto. I’ve never made one before because frankly it intimidates me but this looks so delish I might have to try it!

  12. September 13, 2011 / 2:20 pm

    I thinking cooking is always better with wine. 😉 Risotto has become one of my favorite since becoming gluten free and I think I have just about all the ingredients to try this recipe.

  13. September 13, 2011 / 9:16 pm

    Looks super yummy Nicole! 🙂

  14. Holly
    December 19, 2011 / 10:16 pm

    This risotto was delicious! I left out the pancetta at your recommendation and loved it with just the italian sausage (I did go regular instead of turkey). I hadn’t cooked with saffron before and really liked the flavor. Thanks for a great recipe!

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