Much like the other recipes I’ve tried from Six Seasons, the recipe for risotto with beans, sausage, and bitter greens (it rhymes!) required a bit of tinkering before it was ready to become a blog post. Is it a good thing that Joshua McFadden’s recipes require me to adjust as I go along? His instructions seem to either miss explanations entirely or just assume that the reader knows to do certain steps outside the recipe guidelines.
One benefit is this forces me to consider how good my written instructions to people are. I tend to provide a lot of detail and a lengthy list of instructions. This can be off-putting to certain people…. I’ve had friends say they won’t make something I gave them a recipe for because the directions had too many steps. I envy the recipe writers who concisely write instructions for a whole dish on 4 lines, but if we’re being honest, I think they’re cheating. If you add most of the instructions in the ingredients themselves (e.g.: 1 onion, finely sliced), then it’s a lot easier to write short directions… yet those directions are misleading, because they make a causal reader assume the recipe will come together quickly. Depending on the amount of chopping required, this is not necessarily the case. Also, if the directions are suddenly unclear, things wind up taking longer as you question your way through a process. Furthermore, no risotto takes only 18-25 minutes to make. Why do all cookbooks lie about that?
Anyways…. you aren’t here for my rant about misleading instructions in recipes…
This adapted version of the risotto with beans, sausage, and bitter greens from Six Seasons is delicious. As I was flipping through another cookbook, I decided this risotto is rather reminiscent of a Tuscan white bean soup, with its white beans, garlic, cheese, and pancetta-like flavors. Joshua McFadden calls this risotto his version of creamy beans and rice. The risotto has a smoky richness from the pureed beans that I’ve never encountered in a risotto before. It’s warm and comforting without feeling heavy, because it’s stuffed full of yummy bitter greens to counterbalance the sausage and cheese (and beans). The wilted greens and the sausage chunks also provide a textural contrast to the tender rice, making this a not-quite-one pot meal.
As with all risottos, patience and proper heat is your friend here. The most important concept is ensuring that as the risotto cooks it is simmering but not burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. You want to add enough (1 cup) of stock at a time that all the rice grains in the pan are able to absorb enough liquid and cook properly. With the occasional stir and plenty of time to get the remaining prep work done, this risotto should thoroughly sell you on the idea of making risottos more often, including on weeknights, and with a much broader range of flavor profiles than most people generally consider.
Risotto with Beans, Sausage, and Bitter Greens
- 1 small head radicchio (about 8 ounces) cored, finely sliced
- 1 15-ounce can (454g) Great Northern or Cannellini beans* mostly drained
- 4+2 cloves garlic skins removed and minced
- 6-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, bean cooking liquid, or mild homemade broth divided
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion chopped fine
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4-1 pound fresh garlicky sausage, like mild Italian casings removed
- generous 1 1/2 cups Arborio or carnaroli rice
- 6-8 leaves kale thick stems removed, julienned
- 3 large handfuls arugula
- 1/4 lightly packed cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Once you've cored and thinly sliced the radicchio, place it in a bowl of ice water for at least 30 minutes to soak. This helps take away some bitterness, (although if you like bitter vegetables, it's may not be necessary). After the 30 minute soak, drain and pat the radicchio dry.
Blend the beans with 4 of the garlic cloves and about 1/2 cup of broth until smooth, adding more broth if necessary to help the process.
In a small saucepan, heat the blended beans with the small amount of broth, stirring a few times, until the liquid reaches just below a simmer. Leave barely simmering.
In a medium or large saucepan, heat the remaining broth, until the liquid reaches just below a simmer. Leave barely simmering. [Note: to cut down on dishes, you could simply add this broth to the saucepan once you've used the bean puree and heat the newly added broth quickly.]
In a large Dutch oven, heat a glug (about 2 tablespoons) olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of Kosher salt to the pan, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and fragrant but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the sausage to the onions in the Dutch oven and cook, breaking up any large clumps of ground meat, until the sausage loses its pinkness, about 4-6 minutes.
Reduce the heat under the Dutch oven to low, add half the heated pureed beans, and stir to incorporate. The onions and sausage should be coated in a rich, creamy bean puree.
Add the rice and stir to distribute within the Dutch oven. Add the rest of the pureed beans and stir to incorporate. Add a cup of the separately heated chicken broth or bean liquid and stir. Adjust the heat under the Dutch oven so the contents are bubbling but not boiling away like crazy. [You want it to be hot enough to cook properly but not so hot that the liquid evaporates quickly without tenderizing the rice.] Stir occasionally, until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed and you see the bottom of the pan when you stir.
Add another cup or so of the heated broth and repeat the stirring occasionally until mostly absorbed process. Continue until the rice is no longer hard or chalky in the core when you bite into it. Depending on the heat you use and the age of your rice, it will take about 40-50 minutes for this to occur (not the 18-25 minutes most recipes strangely promise). If you run out of broth, just add some warm water.
While you wait for the rice, take this time to prep the kale, parsley, and cheese. Slice the kale into thin ribbons and saute it with the remaining 2 cloves or garlic for a few minutes. Add the radicchio and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.
When the rice is done, you'll want a little liquid remaining because the dish firms up with the addition of the cheese and as time goes on. If necessary, add a little broth or water (1/2 cup) to achieve a loose consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired.
Add in the sauteed radicchio and kale plus the arugula and parsley, and fold them into the rice. The heat from the risotto will wilt the greens. Fold in half the grated cheeses and serve immediately, with the remaining grated cheese in a side serving bowl.
*Instead of using canned beans here, you could use 1 cup cooked fresh shell beans. I wasn't able to locate them in my supermarket during the "late summer" season the recipe falls into and I live in California, so the ultra-creamy cannellinni beans are a stand-in.