This Swiss chard and sausage risotto has a rich flavor that’s underlined by the earthiness of bitter greens. It’s the perfect dish for cooler nights!
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Risotto is one of my go-to dishes for nights when I realize at 5pm I have nothing planned for dinner. Contrary to its reputation, risotto comes together quickly and easily, especially when you keep the required staples—rice, cheese, and stock—on hand.
Often, when I make risotto, I improvise based on what I have in the fridge and pantry. What you need to make an outstanding risotto is an ingredient to highlight. Be it cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, shrimp, or crab, all you need is quality produce to start with. All you have to do then is simply add flavorings that pair well with your central ingredient—fresh herbs, spices, lemon, and so on—and you’re sure to create a rewarding, satisfying dish.
Over time, I’ve built a mental list of the ingredients I like using in risotto the most. I can keep many of these in the freezer, which means I can always make risotto in a snap. Knowing this is comforting to me (there’s nothing like that first forkful of steamy, cheesy risotto!) and saves me from ordering out more often than not.
Sausage is one of the ingredients I most love to use when making risotto. I buy quality Italian-style sausages and keep them in the freezer so they are readily available for impromptu soups, pasta, and of course, sausage risotto. What I like about using sausage in risotto is that the meat is already flavored, and browning it in the pan you’ll be using to make the risotto adds tons of depth to the dish. Sautéed sausage is a flavor foundation you can build on.
My favorite vegetable to combine with sausage is bitter greens. Since I always keep sausage in the freezer, I keep my eyes peeled at the market and if I see beautiful bunches of Swiss chard, I know what’s for dinner that night: Swiss chard and sausage risotto.
Swiss chard is a leafy green you can eat raw in salads or cooked in pasta, soups, and a host of other dishes. Raw, it has a bitter flavor that adds dimensions to salads. Cooked, that bitterness fades away and the flavor of Swiss chard turns sweet and mild, similar to spinach. Unlike spinach, though, Swiss chard retains texture once cooked, which makes it really enjoyable to eat, especially in this risotto.
This Swiss chard and sausage risotto is filled with robust, aromatic flavors, which makes it the most comforting dish for cooler nights. Curling up into a blanket and digging into this cheesy dish is guaranteed to warm your heart and soul!
As is often the case with simple, Italian-inspired dishes, using the very best ingredients you can get your hands on or afford makes the biggest difference in terms of the flavor of your final dish. In this sausage risotto, I encourage you to use low-sodium broth, or even use homemade broth if you have some on hand, as it most likely will impart a softer, milder flavor to the risotto.
Also, use quality risotto rice for the creamiest texture—Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano are all good picks—and please, please, please, only use Parmigiano-Reggiano as your cheese of choice. Learn why Parmigiano-Reggiano is my cheese of choice for most risotto, but especially for this comforting sausage risotto, below!
Parmigiano-Reggiano has a sharp, nutty, salty flavor that lends a ton of flavor and an unforgettable creaminess to risotto. No need to add extra butter or cream to your risotto when you use the real stuff! Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is controlled under a Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (protected designation of origin), which means it has to be produced in a specific way in specific regions of Italy to be awarded the name. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano has a stamped rind, is aged at least 12 months, and is usually labeled with its original Italian name (as opposed to just “parmesan.”) Yes, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more expensive than cheese products labeled parmesan, but you don’t need a lot to make your dishes extra special. Save it for recipes that make the most of its unique flavor, such as this sausage risotto!
Photo: Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano
You can use any swiss chard variety in this sausage risotto: ruby, rainbow, yellow, and so on. The name of the varieties comes from the brightly colored stems of the leafy green. You can use them interchangeably in this recipe.
If you can’t find swiss chard, substitute large spinach leaves, which will retain the best texture in this creamy sausage risotto.
Most risotto recipes serve 4 to 6, with ingredient quantities that are hard to split into halves or thirds. This has always annoyed me because I usually make risotto for 2 people. So I’m writing all my risotto recipes to serve 2, which means the math is easier to scale up the ingredients to serve 4 or 6 guests. Note that this sausage risotto recipe produces a generous 2-serving yield—you could stretch it to 3 servings if this dish is part of a more elaborate menu that includes appetizers and sides.
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