24 May, 2012

Bean and Bacon Risotto

This ain't no fancy dish. No surprises. No particularly exotic ingredients. Just straight-up comfort food.

I’ve been a huge fan of risotto for years, decades even. It is honestly my “stranded on a deserted island” food, the one dish I would choose to have for the rest of my life. There are so many variations; you can throw so many things into it. Meats, seafood, veggies, cheeses, legumes, or just plain with saffron strands.

Another favorite food of mine is beans—almost any kind. I like ‘em spicy, mashed, with dirty rice, in soups, and so on. A very versatile staple.

The other day, I was craving bean and bacon soup, a soup my mom used to make when I was younger, but I really wasn’t in a soup mood. I wanted something a little more substantial. It was the flavor I was craving, but more robust. Somehow, it dawned on me to try it out in a risotto. I looked for recipes online but only found ones with lima beans, and tomatoes, and other ingredients I didn’t have right on hand. I had white Tuscan-style beans. And bacon. And some green onions. So, I just kind of threw my own recipe together. Since I was using dry beans, I had to soak them overnight, but you can buy them ready-to-use.

I used a copper risotto pan, but a 4- or 5-quart casserole, or a dutch oven would also work. This recipe serves 4-5 people as a traditional first course, or 2-3 people as a main dish.


1 cup small dry white beans, ready to use*
8 strips high-quality bacon, cut into very thin matchsticks
1/2 cup finely minced shallots (yellow onion will work, too)
1 TB unsalted butter
1 TB olive oil
1-1/2 cups risotto rice**
5 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup fresh green onions, green parts chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 TB unsalted butter
Some freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and parsley on top, for garnish

*I used 1/2 cup dry heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, picked over, soaked overnight, rinsed, and boiled for 60 minutes.
**I used Carnaroli rice but Arborio works great, too; if you don't have access to either, use short-grain white rice.


Over medium-high heat, add 1 TB butter and olive oil and sauté bacon and shallots until both are soft but do not brown. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes, until all the grains of rice are starting to get a little translucent. Add the wine and simmer until the rice has absorbed a lot of the liquid, stirring occasionally. Likewise, add about a half cup of the simmering stock at a time, stirring frequently, waiting until the rice has absorbed it before adding more. At about the 15-minute mark, stir in the green onions. After about 18 or 20 minutes, take a taste test. Rice should be tender but firm. When it is finished, stir in about 2 TB of remaining stock, 1 TB butter, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Serve warm in shallow bowls with parsley and shaved Parmesan sprinkled on top.