Lately, I’ve found myself having to think extensively about what my biggest weakness is. (Seriously though, job interviewers, don’t you want to hear about how great I am in a less roundabout way?) After running through procrastination and all those conventional flaws, I began to realize that giving my all on everything, something I’d always viewed as a positive, might actually be my biggest weakness.
The first risotto dish I ever made wasn’t that great (read: it was actually pretty terrible). I became obsessed with getting every grain of rice translucent and coated in oil, which is basically impossible. Some grains of rice toasted and we ended up eating what felt like risotto mixed with corn flakes, like some misguided contemporary take on the breakfast for dinner theme.
Part of the beauty of risotto is that with simple ingredients, patience, and not too much effort, you can create a rich and delicious dish. The details aren’t important – at the end, all the separate components have melded together, giving risotto its creamy texture and complex flavors.
I used to psych myself out by breaking down tasks into such little pieces to the point that I myself was on the verge of a breakdown. Part of me continues to cling on to the details because they just seem so important, but lately, I’ve been learning to not become entangled in every little nuance and instead keep moving forward, one risotto recipe at a time.
Tomato and Sausage Risotto (adapted from Smitten Kitten) – serves 4-6
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 1 lb)
2 carrots (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups) (I didn’t have spinach, so instead I threw in three springs of basil leaves)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional) (I used 1/4 cup Pecorino)
2 tablespoons butter (I left this out)
In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer then keep warm over low heat.
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. If using carrots, add them and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes. Add sausage and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and the meat is a little browned and onion has softened, 3-5 minutes.
At medium heat, add rice and stir until well coated, 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.
Add about 2 cups of hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4-5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach (or basil), Parmesan (or Pecorino), and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.