This risotto dish is a little unusual in that the proportion of rice to meat and vegetables is half and half, rather than the traditional emphasis on rice. The fennel's mild flavor gets a boost from the addition of ground fennel seed and fennel pollen. Use any kind of sausage you like; if the sausage isn't cooked sauté it with the olive oil for a few minutes before adding the fennel.
fennel bulbs (cored and chopped, about 2 cups)
leek (white and light green parts, sliced 1/4-inch thick, about 1 cup)
sausage (casings removed and meat crumbled)
cloves garlic (finely minced)
dried red chili flakes (or to taste)
fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/3-inch dice, about 2 cups)
ground fennel seed
Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 ½ cups
heart red wine (such as zinfandel or chianti)
hot chicken stock
1 ½ cups
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
fennel pollen (as optional garnish)
Heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the leeks and sausage; cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and red chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, ground fennel seed, and rice, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is hot, about 3 minutes.
Add the wine to the skillet, and cook until the wine evaporates, stirring often.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed.
Start tasting the rice after 15 minutes to check if it's cooked. When the rice is cooked to your preference, stir in the butter and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese. Remove the pan from the heat and add a bit more stock if the risotto is dry after you add the cheese.
Divide the hot risotto among four warm, shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with some of the remaining parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of fennel pollen, if using.
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