Tomato Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

The second tomatopalooza took over my kitchen, I wanted to make a tomato sauce. But a little Googling on the way there led me on this delicious detour.

All I meant to do was see if anyone had tips for making Smitten Kitchen’s cherry tomato sauce with larger-than-cherry tomatoes. What I ended up doing was peeling and crushing tomatoes, simmering them in water, and standing over a steaming pot for nearly half an hour feeling my hand go numb from constant stirring and desperately trying not to sweat into my dinner.

And it was fabulous.

tomato risotto

I’ve made a number of risottos in my life, but I’ve never used anything but plain broth for the liquid. And because of that, I’m not sure I ever appreciated how fully the cooking liquid infuses into the rice. One minute, my rice was its normal white; the next, it was turning red from the inside out. With spicy sausage browned in the pot, onions so translucent I almost forgot they were there, and spinach wilted in at the last minute, this recipe has a lot going on — but the tomato flavor is clearly the star.

If I’d used canned tomatoes, I’m sure I would have had a lovely result much faster. My insistence on using fresh ones added both time and mess to the cooking (I mean, did you ever think about — I mean, really think about — how juicy a tomato is?). But there was something satisfying about doing it all by hand … and about watching 28 oz. of tomatoes magically disappear from my stash.

Tomato Risotto with Sausage and Spinach
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients
28 oz. fresh tomatoes (or 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in their juices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 lb. sweet or hot sausage (I used hot), casings removed
1 small onion, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5-6 oz. baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. If using fresh tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. (If using canned tomatoes, skip ahead to step 4.) Cut a shallow X in the skin at the top and the bottom of each tomato. Put ice and cold water in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Working in batches, drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for approximately 1 minute, then plunge the tomatoes into the ice water. When cool enough to handle, the skins should slip off easily.

3. Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing the core. (If you don’t like tomato seeds, this would be the point to remove them; they don’t bother me much, so I didn’t make much effort to remove them beyond what naturally ended up on the cutting board.)

4. Place the chopped tomatoes in a large saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a low simmer and keep warm while you start to prepare the sausage and rice.

5. In a large saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat, cook the chopped onion and sausage until the sausage is just browned. (I squeezed the sausage directly out of the casing into the pot and broke up the chunks with a wooden spoon.)

6. Add the rice to the onion/sausage mixture and stir, about one minute.

7. Add the wine and stir for another minute or until the wine is absorbed.

8. Start adding the tomato-water mixture to the rice. Start by adding about two cups of liquid, stirring gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Slowly add one cup of liquid at a time, stirring slowly and letting each cup absorb before adding another. This will take about 25 minutes, and you’ll be done either when all the liquid is gone or when the rice is creamy and tender.

9. Turn off the heat. Working in batches, stir in the spinach until wilted. Stir in the butter and parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (I halved the butter from the original recipe, and I’m not actually sure any butter is necessary; if you try it without, report back!) Serve and sprinkle with additional parmesan, if desired.

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