Slow-Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

Risotto usually requires endless stirring, but slow cookers can do a lot of the work, with surprisingly good results.


  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups arborio rice (14 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 cups baby spinach (5 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground pepper

Turn a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker to high. In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. In a skillet, cook the sausage with the water over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a spoon until the water has evaporated and the sausage is browned, 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the slow cooker.

In the same skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until translucent, 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits until the wine is reduced by half, 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Scrape the rice into the slow cooker. Add the hot broth, zucchini and salt and cover. Cook for 1 hour, stirring once halfway through. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the slow cooker.

Stir the spinach into the risotto until just wilted. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the grated cheese, season with pepper and serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table.


More and more wineries in California are producing Rhône-style blends, merging the power of Syrah with the fruitiness of Grenache, and often adding earthy Mourvèdre—a combination that works exceptionally well with this rich risotto.



Too Hot, Too Cold!

What is the temp of your wine?

What’s the best temperature to serve a wine?  The age old response to the question is to serve white wines cold and red wines at room temperature.  But in this case not only is traditional wisdom out of synch with recent university studies, it’s also vague and misleading.  First and foremost, what is room temperature?  Room temperature varies from season to season and locale to locale.  In addition, the term doesn’t take into account modern heating and air conditioning, which greatly alter the temperature of a room.  Moreover, when the conventional wisdom of serving red wine at room temperature came into vague in England and France centuries ago, room temperature was likely 55°- 65° F, if you were lucky.  Not surprisingly, university studies confirm that the vast majority of wine drinkers garner the most flavor and pleasure from red wines consumed between 55°- 65° F, which is decidedly cooler than room temperature in most American homes.  Consequently, the term room temperature is useless to most of us today with central heating and air conditioning.

Conversely, recent studies indicate that wine drinkers report the greatest pleasure and taste from white wines consumed between 45°-55° F, which means we may be cheating ourselves by nearly freezing white wines before rapidly consuming them.  So, what’s a wine drinker to do?  Drink wine at the temperature that suits your palate of course.  Yet, you may want to experiment with some of your favorite red wines by cooling them down for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator and allowing white wines to sit in a glass for 15 minutes before guzzling them.  Personally, I think most of us consume red wines too warm and white wines too cold.  However, no one else can determine your pleasure quotient.  So, why not experiment a bit, and see what suits you?

Don’s October Collector Series Top Picks

I’m hooked on the big, beautiful red wines of Spain’s Priorat.  And a recent trip to Spainis just prolonging the affair.  Consequently, my first Top Pick for the month is Scala Dei’s 2004 Cartoixa Priorat – this venerable estate’s top rated wine. The 2004 Cartoixa Priorat is a powerful, polished wine that positively sings from the glass.  It offers an eye catching purple robe and a stunning bouquet that flirts with the senses before seducing the nose.  A heady mélange of black currant, rose petal, black cherry, hot fudge and sweet vanilla savory scents and flavors work their magic.  If you have never had one of Priorat’s iconic wines, it’s about time you treated yourself.  Try Scala Dei’s Cartoixa, but remember it only takes one time to get hooked.  My Second Top Pick belongs to an old friend and one of the most consistently made wines I have encountered over the years – Gilles Noblet’s Domaine de la Collonge Pouilly-Fuissé.  Noblet’s 2011 Pouilly-Fuissé is another unequivocal success.  It received unanimous support from our tasting panels and is positively delightful.  And it will get even better with a few additional months of bottle age.  A votre santé!