Nonna Risotto

I'm not Italian.  But if I were, and I had a nonna (i.e. "grandmother" in Italian), I imagine that I would ask her to make this tomato-sausage risotto, and it would make me feel comfy and satisfied and loved, like a wee little baby.  Alas, I had to make this wonderful concoction for myself and my love, sans nonna... And he's Irish so no nonna for him either.  Anyway, on this finally characteristically chilly December day (last week it was in the 60's, good grief), and on this second day of finals week (I guess now it's the fourth day, but I wrote this on the second), this piping hot bowl full of carby, meaty deliciousness was just what I wanted.  I finished 3 of my 4 finals last week (I'm not sure my professors understood that finals week is when finals happen...), so I've had time to procrastinate studying for my last final and instead keep my friends' bellies full.

This risotto, man, trust me, you want to make it.  My recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Tomato and Sausage Risotto (the link is above), which is adapted from a Martha Stewart newsletter.  If you've never made risotto before, don't be intimidated!  It's actually very easy, you just have to pay attention to it.  Protip: Cooking risotto is easier than cooking plain rice... I burn it every time, or at least get a crust of crunchy rice grains stuck on the bottom of my pot.  But I've made risotto several times, and I've never screwed it up.  Instead of adding rice and water to a pot, clamping the lid on, and praying that the box directions were right, you toast the rice in a pan and add the liquid one cup at a time.  Then you stir and stir and stir until you've developed this wonderful, creamy texture, the rice is cooked through, and it tastes not-boring like regular rice usually does.  Ta-da!  And everyone will be so impressed like ooooh you made risotto?  How are you so talented?  They only serve that in fancy restaurants!  But you'll know that it took you around half an hour and only involved some extra ladeling and stirring.  Gordon Ramsey (ha, if he were to read this) would probably send a hitman after me for saying that making risotto is easy, but it really is, and none of us are going to be on Master Chef anytime soon, so it doesn't have to be perfect.  Just homey and darn tasty.  

Tomato-Sausage Risotto

1 can (28 oz.) ground peeled tomatoes
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed and skins removed
3/4 lbs. (3 links) sweet Italian sausage
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
Handful basil, torn

In a saucepan, bring tomatoes and 3 cups chicken stock to a simmer.

Heat olive oil with crushed garlic cloves over medium heat.  Remove sausage from the casings and break up meat into the pan.  Brown the flesh until caramelized, about 4 minutes, then add the rice.  Toast for 2 minutes until the grains are slightly opaque, then deglaze with 1/2 cup of chicken stock.

Once this liquid has been absorbed, add a cup of the warm tomato-stock.  Stir frequently, swirling the pan, until the liquid has been absorbed.  Add another cup, repeating the same process several times, until the rice has been cooked through (you may not use all of the liquid).  Turn off the heat, then stir in the pat of butter.  Serve with a few chunks of mozzarella and a sprinkle of basil.  

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