Laura and I have joked a lot about the abundance of sausage recipes on this site–we have at least ten, and agree that the number seems small, given our strong feelings for one of our shared favorite ingredients. After all, it’s delicious, so dang versatile, one of the easier meats to cook, and always a crowd pleaser. So I could almost hear La laughing all the way from Boston one recent morning when I told Hal I wasn’t sure what to make for dinner, but that I was considering oven baked fajitas, and he responded, “that sounds good…or maybe something with sausage?” You can’t fight destiny. Feeling like I had over-played our usual sausage faves, I hopped onto smitten kitchen and did a quick search. I turned up a recipe from all the way back in 2006, for a risotto with sausage, tomato, and spinach. And oh my word was it good.
The day I decided to make this, I was feeling more than a little bit detached from my kitchen. It’s been a tough and busy end of semester, and we’ve been relying heavily on eating out and delivery (very heavily). This turned out to be the perfect recipe to get me back in a happy cooking groove. I know some people find risotto a pain–all that stirring!–but I think it can provide such a nice break from multitasking. This may be a stretch of an analogy, but it reminds me of sitting under the hand dryers at the nail salon post-manicure, when you really can’t do anything but just be there. I love that. Risotto feels the same way: I can stir, ladle, sip (bless a recipe that calls for wine), repeat, and be still.
This recipe covers all of my ideal dinner bases nicely: starch, protein, and veggie, all in one. It’s also relatively simple, and while not exactly speedy it feels faster than some other risottos I’ve done. Sausage and onion are browned together to start, and rice is added to give it a nice coating of tastiness. Wine is splashed in and cooked down. The tomatoes, never my favorite ingredient (and I know at least one person who will be disappointed that I allowed myself to be seduced by them), are added to broth to create the liquid that will give body to the risotto. Genius! And, as a result, the tomatoes feel more like part of a sauce than a stand alone ingredient. Spinach, cheese, and butter are stirred in at the end, and dinner is served.
I know we tend to think of comfort food as having seasons (fall and winter, of course), and I don’t often turn to recipes like this when it’s feeling light and bright out. But, sometimes, comfort food transcends season, and I think this recipe is going to come in handy for those times in my kitchen. It made for such a hearty satisfying dinner, and it felt so good to make. I’m glad to have it in my back pocket for those nights when I need to re-calibrate, take a breath…and then eat something really delicious.
I made only a few small changes to the original recipe. I opted for chicken broth over plain water, upped the amount of sausage from 3/4 lbs to a full pound (obviously), and used a carton of baby spinach rather than bothering to de-stem or chop flat-leaf spinach. I strongly endorse my first two choices, but should have listened to the spinach instructions: the size of the baby spinach was just right, but I could have done without the stems. Lesson learned.