Even though spring is trying to show itself here in the Northwest, there are always those cool evenings when I long for comfort food. I recently found some really juicy, gorgeous pears in the market — and so my mind wandered to pairings with the pears! Yep— pear pairs! Okay, so I digress. I LOVE pears with cheese ( really anything with cheese), and risotto was on my mind. But, I wanted something hardy, jazzy, wake up my taste buds and warm my innards, something very savory and rich. Along came the Italian sausage, HOT of course, and some toasted pine nuts for crunch. A new risotto was born, and I am honored to share it with you.
The making of the risotto is a therapeutic exercise for me. I enjoy the way the ingredients are added, in a specific order, and watching the transformation to the finished dish. Just standing at the stove, stirring, hearing the sizzle, inhaling the aromas, tasting all that’s happening in this dish, from sweet, hot, to salty and acidic, it transports me from all my cares to the end of the journey, a great meal. If you would like a tutorial in making risotto, check out the video.
The very best risotto always begins with the best ingredients, so I recommend home-made stock if you have it. If not, make a quick “doctored stock.” And of course, arborio or carnaroli rice. Be sure to look for pears that are just slightly firmer than you would eat today, they stand up better to cooking. Here’s the easiest way to cut them up.
risotto with pears & hot Italian sausage
You may choose to purchase the sausage in bulk, or in casing, which will need to be removed. I don’t eel the pears, I like to color from the skins. You may also choose to leave out the sausage and serve this as a side dish, it’s great with pork!
Risotto Alle Pere e Salsiccia
This is a hearty and extremely flavorful comfort food, perfect for a cold evening. It is particularly flavorful as it combines richness of the risotto with the spice of the sausage and sweetness of the pears.
- ½ pound hot Italian sausage crumbled
- 2 pears
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion or shallot
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pear vodka optional
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce if desired
- 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the crumbled sausage and cook, chopping it up as you stir, until the sausage is no longer pink. Remove from skillet and drain well; set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Sautéing the Pears:
Cut the pears into ½ inch chunks. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the skillet. Sauté the pears until they begin to caramelize. Remove from the heat; set aside.
In small saucepan:
Heat chicken stock just to simmer; cover and keep hot.
In medium saucepan over medium –high heat:
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add onion or shallot and thyme, sauté just until it is translucent, and about 3 minutes. While stirring, add rice, pouring it in “like rain,” so that each grain is separate. Continue sautéing and stirring about 4 minutes more. Rice will become slightly more opaque.
Add wine and lemon juice; stirring. When you can see the dry pan at the bottom when you drag the spoon across, add about 1/4 cup of the hot chicken stock. It is important not to let the rice dry out at this point. Continue cooking, stirring and adding stock until all of the stock has been added. This will take about 20 minutes. Taste for doneness, adding more liquid if more cooking is necessary.
Stir in the pear vodka, the reserved sausage and most of the pears. Correct the seasonings if necessary. Serve hot, sprinkled with the gorgonzola , topped with remaining pears and pine nuts.
Makes 4 main dish servings.
*Arborio rice is a medium grain Italian rice, which can be found in larger supermarkets.
Here are a few tips to make executing this recipe a snap:
- Mis en Place your ingredients:
2. Remove the sausage from their skins:
3. Sauté the pears until all the liquid evaporates and the pears turn golden brown:
4. If you’ve made homemade chicken stock, reduce it to 1/4 or 1/5 and freeze in small plastic containers. It takes up little room in your freezer and will reconstitute simply and beautifully providing a wonderful rich flavor to your risotto.