Risotto with Shell Beans, Sausage, and Bitter Greens

Best. Risotto. Ever.

from: Six Seasons
serves: 4 to 6

1 small head radicchio, cored, leaves torn into pieces
1 cup cooked shell beans plus 5 cups cooking liquid, or canned beans and low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable stock, or water- I used canned great northern beans and chicken stock
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound fresh garlicky sausage, such as mild or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, meat pulled into small pieces- I used spicy Italian sausage
1 1/2 cups Arborio or carnaroli rice
2 large handfuls arugula
1/4 cup lightly packed roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Put the radicchio in a bowl of ice water and let it soak at least 30 minutes; this will take away some of the bitterness.

Put the bean liquid or broth in a saucepan and bring to just below a simmer.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a very large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook stirring a lot, until the onion is fragrant and translucent, but not browned at all, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage has lost its pinkness, another 3 to 4 minutes. While you’re doing this, try to break up the sausage even more so you don’t have any large clumps.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add half the cooked beans and about 1/4 cup of the bean liquid or broth and smash the beans into a paste, stirring to incorporate the liquid to make everything creamy. The goal is to have the ingredients cloaked in nice creamy bean puree.

Add the rice and stir to distribute, then add the rest of the beans and stir again. Add a ladleful (about 1 cup) of bean liquid and stir. Adjust the heat so that the liquid is definitely bubbling, but is not boiling like crazy-if it’s too hot, the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the rice won’t cook properly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced a lot and you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir.

Add another ladleful and repeat the process. Keep adding, stirring, and cooking down until the rice is no longer chalky in the center when you bit it, but not more tender than that or the final dish will be a bit mushy, about 20-25 minutes. If you run out of the liquid, just add some warm water.

When the rice is done, check the amount of liquid: the risotto will stiffen up a bit when you add the cheese and also during the time between the pan and the table, so keep it fairly loose now. Do this by stirring in more liquid or water, up to 1/2 cup or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Once the risotto is at the right consistency, drop the radicchio, arugula, and parsley into the pan and fold in so that the heat starts to wilt the greens. Fold in half the cheeses, adjust the seasoning and liquid again, and serve immediately. Pass the rest of the cheese at the table.

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