Mushroom Risotto (with Italian Sausage Variation)

The third course for Saturday night’s dinner was this mushroom risotto.  I made the dish Saturday as a warm-up for the cooking class I’m teaching on Monday nights at ArtSpace DC.  My guests on Saturday night, as well as the folks in my class on Monday, all seemed to like it . . . and I thought it was great both times . . . so I’ll share the recipe here.  On Monday night, we made two batches in the class, one of which incorporated Italian sausage, so I’ll include that as a variation here.  Also, you can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock if you want to make this vegetarian . . . but I think homemade chicken stock does wonders for this dish.  (I used homemade stock at home and store-bought chicken stock in class.)  Enjoy the weekend, folks.

This recipe serves 6-8 as a side dish/small course or 4 as a main course.

  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want to skip the sausage and make this a vegetarian dish)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms (I used hedgehogs*)
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated
  • (for sausage variation, 1 lb. Italian sausage, casing removed)
  • 1 small onion*
  • 2 cloves garlic*, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (packed) grated Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf Italian parsley (or some other green herb), chopped
  1. Place the 4 cups of stock and 2 cups of water in a saucepan over med-low heat.  As soon as it begins to simmer, turn the heat down to the lowest setting to keep the liquid warm.  This is simply a step to reduce the cooking time of the risotto when you add these liquids.
  2. To prepare the dried porcini mushrooms: Combine ½ cup of dried porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of water and set aside to soak.
  3. To prepare the fresh mushrooms: Ideally, you want to time this to have the mushrooms done cooking at the same time as the risotto, so try to start it about 5 minutes before the risotto is done.  Another option is to cook the fresh mushrooms early and then stir them into the risotto at the very end to reheat them.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  When butter stops foaming, add the fresh mushrooms and cook until soft.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.  Serve them on top of the risotto, or set aside until the risotto is done.
  4. To prepare the risotto: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  (For the sausage variation, when the butter stops foaming, add the sausage and sauté until browned.)  When the butter stops foaming, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 or 7 minutes.
  5. Next, add the Arborio rice and cook until it is translucent around its edges, around 4 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the white wine and cook until the wine is fully absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add about 2 cups of the pre-heated stock/water mixture (don’t worry about measuring it).  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.
  9. Add the re-hydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid.  (If the porcinis are dirty, you may want to strain the liquid through cheesecloth.)
  10. When making risotto, you should at this stage begin checking grains of rice for doneness.  I prefer my risotto soft (not mushy) with a little bit of resistance from the center of the rice—al dente.  Some like it softer and soupy, some like it more firm.  Follow your heart and mouth on this one.
  11. Proceed by adding additional pre-heated stock/water by half-cup increments, stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed, testing for doneness, and adding another half-cup if necessary.  If you run out of stock/water before the risotto is done, don’t panic . . . just add some water.
  12. When the risotto is cooked to your preferred degree of doneness, add the cheese (and fresh mushrooms if they’re cold and you want to reheat them) to the risotto, stir, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.  Top with the sautéed fresh mushrooms and flat-leaf Italian parsley or something else fresh and green.

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