Risotto with Sausages and Cranberry Beans

Risotto con Salsiccie e Fagioli Borlotti

I love rice and beans even when the dish is not Italian, but for me, the tastiest expression of that combination is beans in risotto. What makes this particular risotto with beans even better than most is, first, that the beans are sautéed with pork sausage, itself another winning combination; and, second, that they are partly mashed to contribute to the quality that characterizes all successful risottos, creaminess.

You can substitute cannellini for cranberry beans if you must, but try hard for the latter because they are tastier. The pork sausage should be as plain as possible, without tomato, fennel seeds, sage, chili pepper, or other exotic flavorings. If you cannot find good, plain sausage, use fresh ground pork, not too lean, seasoning it liberally with salt and pepper.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh unshelled cranberry beans or cup dried, soaked and boiled;
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ¾ cup crumbled, skinned pork sausage; please see headnote
  • 5 cups homemade meat broth, prepared, or ½ cup canned beef broth diluted with cups water
  • cups carnaroli, arborio, or other imported Italian rice for risotto

For Mantecare

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh

Method

If Using Fresh Beans

  1. Shell them, put them in a pot with enough cold unsalted water to cover by about 2 inches, bring the water to a gentle simmer, cover the pot, and cook at a slow, steady pace until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let them steep in their liquid until ready to use.

If Using Dried Beans

  1. Soak them overnight or for at least 6 hours, drain, then boil them in a fresh change of water. Let them steep in their liquid until ready to use.
  2. Put the oil and chopped onion in a medium skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it becomes just translucent but not colored.
  3. Add the crumbled sausage and cook it, turning it over with a wooden spoon, until it becomes colored a rich brown all over.
  4. Retrieve the cooked beans from their pot using a colander spoon or another slotted spoon, and put them in the skillet. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water from the bean pot, and mash about half the beans, pressing them against the bottom of the skillet with the wooden spoon. Cook for about a minute, turning the contents of the pot over with the spoon from time to time.
  5. Pour the broth into a saucepan, bringing it to and keeping it at a slow, sputtering simmer.
  6. Place the heavy-bottomed saucepan where you’ll be making the risotto on the burner nearest to the broth, empty the contents of the skillet into it, and turn the heat under the risotto pot to medium high. Stir and, when the beans and sausage are sizzling hot, add the rice. Stir quickly and thoroughly to coat the rice well.
  7. Add 1 cup of simmering broth, and cook the rice, stirring it and periodically adding liquid, as described in the basic risotto. Finish cooking the rice, stirring always and adding broth when needed, until it is tender but firm to the bite, about 25 minutes.
  8. Take the pot off heat and do the mantecare step, swirling in the butter and grated Parmesan, turning the risotto over four or five times. Add the chopped parsley, salt, and ground pepper to taste; stir once or twice more; transfer to a warm platter; and serve at once.

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