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Tonight’s Dinner: Vanilla risotto with spiced sausage

Risotto typically has chicken, shrimp or vegetables in it, but what if you added vanilla beans to the mix? Your savory dish turns into something slightly sweet and unexpectedly delicious.

A couple of months ago, I participated in a Twitter chat that was all about vanilla. Everything from the bean to the extract was covered and how to use it. Normally I break out my vanilla solely for desserts, but several people talked about using the bean or extract in their savory dishes. All the recipes sounded out of this world, but there was one that sounded especially intriguing — vanilla risotto.

Now of course I’ve had rice pudding, which is thick and sweet and definitely has a strong vanilla flavor, but the risotto the other cooks were talking about was definitely of the savory variety. You still used chicken or vegetable stock and you could even throw in a protein or a vegetable to make it a more substantial entreé. As soon as I heard this, I knew I had to try it. And let me tell you how happy I am that I did. The subtle vanilla flavor turns the risotto completely on its head, and stirring in a nice fruity sausage enhances the flavor even more. So the next time you’re making risotto, throw in a vanilla bean or two. You’ll be astonished by the rich flavors.

Vanilla risotto with spiced sausage


  • 4-1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 large vanilla beans
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 apple cinnamon sausage, sliced


  1. In a medium saucepan, warm the broth over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them with the beans to the broth. When the broth comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.
  2. Meanwhile in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender but not browned, three to four minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the wine and simmer until the wine is almost completely absorbed, about three minutes. Add a half cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about two minutes. Continue to cook the rice, adding the broth a half cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each of the cups of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. While the rice cooks, cook the sausage in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the sausage is no longer pink.
  4. Turn off the heat under the risotto and gently stir in the Parmesan cheese and sliced sausage. Serve immediately.

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