By now I am sure you’ve guessed that risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods, & for many reasons.
First of all, while some may find the act of cooking risotto too laborious, I find it relaxing. There is nothing I enjoy more after a long day than standing over the stove, ladle in one hand, & wine in the other. It calms me. Reason number 2, risotto is so versatile & adapts with the seasons. In the fall & winter months I can make a rich butternut squash or pumpkin version, in the spring & summer the possibilities are endless – asparagus, artichoke, summer squash, fresh pea, tomato & basil, etc, & there is always room for new possibilities – like this fennel & sausage version. Fennel makes a consistent appearance in my CSA share, & I often resort to the “same old, same old” & shave it raw into my daily salad. Ever-so-often I get an adventurous itch, & looking a 3 rather large fennel bulbs, I knew shaved fennel salads would get old quickly.
I thought back to other fennel based recipes I’d made in months past & remembered a successful “Fennel & Sausage Stew”. To me, fennel & sausage seemed an unlikely pairing, but the flavors in the stew were actually quite tasty. So what about fennel & sausage risotto? Low & behold I wasn’t too off track. I found a Food & Wine recipe to veganize!
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 package vegan Italian sausage, crumbled
- 1 large fennel bulb, halved & thinly sliced
- 5 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- Sea salt & pepper to taste
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- Pinch of saffron threads
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan, or nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp. vegan butter
- 2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley
- In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Add vegan sausage & cool over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add fennel & cook, stirring occasionally until softened & lightly browned, about 8 minutes longer. Cover & keep warm.
- In a small sauce pan, bring vegetable stock to a simmer; reduce heat & keep warm.
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add onion, sea on with salt & pepper, & cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice & cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to thoroughly coat it with the oil, & becomes lightly “toasted.” Crumble saffron into the wine & add to the rice, stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm stock & cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly, until liquid is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente, thick & creamy, about 20 minutes total. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in vegan sausage & fennel along with the vegan parm, butter & parsley. Serve immediately.
Again, this unlikely pairing was surprisingly delicious. I always enjoy fennel’s subtle anise flavor & it deliciously compliments the sweet & spicy elements of the vegan Italian sausage. As always, rich & creamy risotto always hits the spot when comfort food is craved. Serve with an arugula salad & crisp glass of wine. Enjoy!