Sausage and dried bean risotto

Risotto with Sausage and Borlotti Beans


Sausage and dried bean risotto


How to make risotto two ways

As promised, here’s risotto made the traditional way….be eternally grateful to me now, as I only did it this way for you instead of using my pressure cooker. 🙂 This recipe comes from my wonderful mother-in-law who makes this dish far better than I can!  It’s a derivative of a risotto dish called Panissa vercellese, which means that it comes from the province of Vercelli in the Piemonte region in the North-Western part of Italy where they grow Canaroli and Arborio rice.  The original risotto has a special kind of salami in it called salame della duja and lardo in it, but no Parmesan.  Sounds yummy, but it would be MUCH heavier than this version with sausages. Lardo is not exactly a diet food (but, oh man, it’s good on bruschetta!)

My mother-in-law told me that when she was young, they almost never had pasta, but always rice dishes.  Pasta was made fresh and only for special occasions.  My husband’s grandmother used to stand up to her knees in water day in and day out when she was younger, working in the rice fields.  She’s now 95 years old and recently bought 25kg of tomatoes from the market so that she could make and bottle pasta sauce for all the rest of us lazy members of the family…..maybe spending years bent in half and always wet is the secret to a long, healthy life!  If anyone wants to go and ahead and try it, let me know how it goes…..I’m more the drinking-wine-in-the-sun-on-the-terrace kind of person.



It’s all about the quality of the ingredients

The quality of the sausages is very important for this risotto.  If you get flavourless ones, then your risotto will be exactly that. If you can, try to get some from a butcher rather than the supermarket (where we all know that the sausages are made with any leftovers they pick up off the ground…….is that a good way to start a vicious urban legend or what!). If you’re feeling super-cheffy (yes, the spell-check pulled me up on that word, but you know what I mean!), you can soak the beans the night before and boil them in unsalted water for an hour before actually getting on to making the risotto.  Now, if you’re like me, you’ll never remember to do the soaking step, so just buy a can of beans from the supermarket and don’t even pretend that you’re making everything from scratch (actually, that’s directed at me from me….I think I may be going mad! Writing notes to myself in my own blog? HELP!)


Cook the rice with wine


What are Borlotti beans and can they be substituted?

This recipe calls for borlotti beans, which I thought that I couldn’t find outside of Italy until I realized that they have a screed of names, but are actually pretty much all the same thing.  This bean has as many aliases as an undercover CIA spy: cranberry beans, and coco rose beans are just two of them. Before cooking, the beans are a beautiful striped pink or red and white, which fades to an ugly uniform mud-brown colour when they’re cooked….shame about that, but they do taste good.  Just don’t get your hopes up that they’re going to make your dish look colourful! If you cannot find borlotti beans, any kind of dried beans will work at a pinch.


Add broth by the ladleful.


This time around, I actually used cannelini beans, which are similar, as that’s what I had on hand.  They work well too.  They are white beans, that stay whitish during cooking, so there are no surprises there! Just don’t use kidney beans….been there, done that, didn’t even want to touch the t-shirt.  Save them for Tex-Mex cooking!

By Lisa Watson

Risotto with sausage, red wine, and dried beans

Risotto with sausage and borlotti beans is a traditional risotto from the Piedmont region in North-western Italy.
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time1 hour 5 minutes
Course: entree, first course, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 Onion
  • 2-3 Sausages
  • 350 g Caneroli or aborio rice 2 cups
  • 250 ml Red wine 1 cup
  • 1 Beef bouillion cube or beef broth
  • 1 tsp Salt or to taste
  • 400 g 1 can Borlotti or cannelini beans
  • 30 g grated Parmesan cheese 3 Tbsp
  • 1 large pot Simmering water or broth


  • Put the pot of water with the bouillon cube in it to simmer on the stove top.  Chop the onion finely and saute it in olive oil in a second pot. When the onion becomes translucent, crumble the sausage and add it.  Stir the mixture until the sausage is browned.
  • Add the rice and saute until it browns slightly.
  • Add the wine and let it boil off.
  • Pour in enough water/broth from your simmering pot to cover the rice mixture. and put the timer on for 13 minutes.  Now, STAY THERE AND DON’T MOVE!!  As the rice is cooking, watch the level of the water.  As it goes down, add water from the simmering pot, one ladle-full (or cupful) at a time. Stir the rice often.
  • At this point, you can drain the beans and add them.
  • As the time gets to around 12 minutes, start tasting the rice to see how done it is. The type of rice you have may vary the cooking times, so I’m being conservative here. If it’s close to being cooked, don’t add any more water and let the water in the rice boil off….and don’t forget to stir it…..
  • Add the Parmesan cheese and stir it in.