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sunday dinner: sausage & ramp risotto.

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Oooh boy, one of my favorite times of year has arrived and that time is Ramp Time. Ramp Time, you say? What, pray tell, is a ramp? A ramp — the vegetable that is — is a wild spring onion that’s native to the East Coast and usually starts to show up in local farmer’s markets in the month of May. The flavor is just magic — kind of like if a spring onion and a clove of garlic had a skinny, multicolored, mildly flavored baby. They’re also incredibly seasonal (such divas, ramps) in that they’re only around for a few weeks a year, so you’ve got to be pretty quick on the uptake to enjoy them while they’re here. If you see them in your local market, buy them. Like right now. Even if you don’t use them right away, they pickle extremely well so you can keep ’em around for other parts of the year when fresh ramps are merely a memory.

If you want to use them fresh, they are great in anything that you would normally add garlic and/or spring onion to — egg dishes, pasta, pizza, meat dishes, etc. But if you want to get the most out of your ramps, you must MUST make this risotto. Truth be told, I stumbled across this recipe in a ‘what to do with ramps’ google fest, and encouraged by the positive reviews, I picked up the rest of the ingredients necessary to try it out. What I did not expect was to produce one of the best risotto dishes I’ve ever had. It was so delicious that I was making borderline inappropriate moaning noises while shoveling it into my mouth because it was that good. So good, in fact, I’m slightly torn about sharing it with others because I want to keep it just for myself. I want all the risottos.

But, I would never do that to you, so let’s get to cookin’.

Sausage & Ramp Risotto, adapted from Epicurious

You will need:

2 tablespoons butter (¼ stick)
½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
12 ramps, white & pink parts chopped, green tops thinly sliced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine, a sauvignon blanc or pinot gris would work best
3 cups chicken broth (plus a bit more just in case)
½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

One thing you should know about this recipe is that it requires your undivided attention for the entire cooking process. This is not something you can put on the stove and walk away and check Instagram and do your nails and then it’s magically done and amazing. You will be stirring the entire time, in total about 20 minutes once it gets going. The stirring is worth it, I promise, but it’s also critical to the success of the dish, so just make sure you’re up for the challenge before getting too far down the road to amazing risotto.

OK, we got that out of the way. You’re committed now. So, take that positive attitude and grab a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Melt the butter in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and sauté until cooked through, using your spoon or stirrer to break up the meat into small pieces as it cooks. The sausage should take about five minutes to lose its pink color; once you’ve gotten to this point, add the white and pink parts of the ramps to the pan. Sauté for an additional two minutes until just softened.

Next, add the arborio rice, and stir for about a minute to ‘toast’ the rice. It’ll look weird and you’ll be like, Tina, you’ve led me astray, but I have not. This is only the beginning of this beautiful journey. Once you’ve incorporated the rice into the sausage and the ramps, add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. This should only take about a minute.

Here’s where things get serious. Take a breath, it’s going to be fine, you can do this. In one-cup increments, add the chicken broth to the rice mixture, and stir constantly until absorbed. When the first cup is nearly absorbed, add the second cup. When the second cup is absorbed, add the third, stirring all the while. It’s a lot of stirring, guys. I’m sorry. When all three cups of broth are absorbed, now it’s just a waiting game until the rice is finished cooking. The whole broth process should take about 20 minutes. Taste along the way to test the doneness of the rice. If it’s still a little hard and the risotto is getting a little dry, add a bit more broth (a few tablespoons at a time) to help the process along. The risotto is done when the rice no longer has a ‘bite’ to it.

The last step, when the rice is completely cooked, is to add the green part of the ramps to the risotto and stir to incorporate, and then add the parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and completely incorporated into the risotto mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary, and you’re done.

Serve immediately, either as an entrée for two or a side dish for 3-4. It’s bonkers good. You’ll be dancing around your dinner table in a risotto revery hoping and praying there’s just one more bite in the pan. There might not be, but you can always stop at the market tomorrow, grab some more ramps, and go for round two tomorrow night. That’s what I’ll be doing, it’s all ramps all the time over here, at least for the next three weeks. Come on over, it’ll be a rampin’ good time.

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