Jambalaya Risotto

Risotto with Shrimp, Scallops, Ham, and Smoked Sausage

An American classic reinterpreted. I don’t claim to cook authentic Cajun, but I do love those funky flavors. Why not combine two winners, Bayou cuisine and Italian risotto and see what happens? Make this for 6 to 8 or more as it is a good deal of work. But worth it.


  • 1 pound spicy pork sausage, in casings
  • 2 pounds medium or large shrimp
  • 1 pound scallops, tough muscles removed
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 10 to 12 peppercorns
  • 3 medium onions, chopped, trimmings saved for shrimp stock (see below)
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped, trimmings saved for shrimp stock
  • ½ cup combination ham drippings and fat from pancetta or bacon
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 cups diced, peeled, fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (or to taste) finely minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
  • cups arborio rice
  • ½ pound baked ham, drippings reserved, or ½ pound ham steak, diced (½ inch)



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the sausage in a few places with a fork and bake 15 minutes. Then, for additional funky flavor, if you have a smoker, you might like to smoke the cooked sausage on the low grill, covered, for 30 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells for stock. Refrigerate the shrimp along with the scallops. For the shrimp stock, put the reserved shells in a saucepan with water to cover. Add 2 of the bay leaves, 4 of the thyme sprigs, the peppercorns, and the reserved trimmings from the onions and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 1 hour. Strain.

Melt the ham and pancetta or bacon drippings in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and celery and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining thyme and bay leaves, the tomato and garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the chicken and shrimp stocks in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and hold the stocks at a simmer.

Heat half the olive oil or butter in a large deep saucepan over low heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring to coat with the oil or butter, until opaque, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring until each cup of the stock is absorbed. When the rice is about two thirds cooked, add the onion mixture, the sausage, and the ham. Then continue adding stock as needed until the risotto is almost completely cooked.

Meanwhile, quickly sauté the shrimp and scallops in the remaining olive oil over high heat in a large sauté pan or skillet. A minute or two before the rice is perfectly cooked, add the shellfish, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook a few minutes longer until the rice is al dente in the center and creamy on the outside. Add more stock for a slightly soupy consistency, if you like. Serve in big bowls.