Spicy Cajun food meets creamy cheesy Italian food in our Cheesy Cajun Sausage Risotto. This one-pot wonder has everything you need in a hearty dinner – creamy arborio rice, plenty of veggies, spicy andouille sausage, and a cheese factor you’ll fall in love with.
Cheesy Cajun Sausage Risotto
When classic Cajun food meets classic Italian food, it’s a very, very good thing. Not to quote Martha or anything. And you can’t get more classic than spicy jambalaya with Zatarain’s Andouille Smoked Sausage (our favorite!) and creamy risotto. Two rice-based dishes when finished typically have very different outcomes, but when merged together they become the best of hybrids.
If you’re not familiar with jambalaya, you’re not alone. I’ve only become acquainted with it in recent years thanks to my New Orleans-born brother-in-law, and now I’m a full-fledged champion of the spicy, herb-packed rice dish. It’s basically tradition for him to make jambalaya when we come in town. It’s something we look forward to with each visit, but we can’t have it just twice a year, now can we?
I’ve taken all of my favorite parts of his jambalaya -the sausage, the spices – and combined it with my favorite rice dish of all time – risotto.
Here’s what’s happening in a nutshell:
We sauté spicy andouille sausage in olive oil until it’s irresistibly crispy and brown, and then ever-so-gently cook down a copious amount of veggies in the fat-rendered from the sausage along with a bevy of Cajun-inspired seasoning. From there, things only get better as we slowly cook arborio rice with plenty more Cajun seasoning and just a touch of tomato.
The final touch is a heavy hand of Parmigiano-Reggiano before folding the cooked veggies and spicy andouille sausage back into the mix.
Ingredients in Cheesy Cajun Sausage Risotto.
Andouille sausage. Jambalaya almost always has protein in it, and it can vary from cook to cook, but for our version, the star of the show is spicy andouille sausage. For us, it’s a must-have ingredient in cajun cooking, and we LOVE Zatarain’s Andouille Smoked Sausage, so that’s what we’re using here.
Not only is it perfectly spicy, salty, and crisps up beautifully, but it’s 100% pork, contains no artificial colors or flavors, no by-products, no MSG, and is gluten free.
I can find it at pretty much any grocery store out there, but I know it’s also available nationwide at Kroger and Sam’s club as well.
Veggies. A classic jambalaya uses green pepper, onion, and celery. I stuck to that trio, but also included a red bell pepper as well for a little bit of sweetness and pop of color. Of course, we also include plenty of garlic, because what’s a risotto OR a jambalaya without garlic.
Spices. We make our cajun seasoning with ground thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and a little bit of cayenne, but Zatarain’s also has a great Creole seasoning you can use in place of those.
Tomato paste. Tomato paste is one my favorite ingredients to use. It adds a concentrated tomato flavor to recipes without adding a lot of extra liquid. I like to buy mine in the tube that you can squeeze so I never waste any. However, if you can’t find it a can of tomato paste will work great.
Beer. Instead of using wine like you would in a classic risotto, I felt like a light beer would better compliment the cajun theme. Any light beer will work.
Arborio rice. Arborio rice is essential to a traditional risotto. It’s a short grain rice that, when cooked slowly, releases a ton of starch making the risotto ultra creamy.
Chicken stock. You’re going to need A LOT of chicken stock. We use about four and half cups for the perfect consistency, but you may need a little bit more or less.
Parmesan cheese. As always, I highly recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano, but any aged parmesan will also work.
Let’s make Cheesy Cajun Sausage Risotto!
Brown the sausage. Start off by heating a large shallow skillet to a medium-high heat. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage. Sauté the sausage until it’s super brown and crispy, then flip over. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Cook the veggies. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, and some of the spices to the rendered fat. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until the veggies are softened, but still crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Toast the risotto. The first thing you want to do when making risotto is toast the rice. I add the dry rice to the pan along with any leftover oil from the veggies and sausage and gently toast the rice for a few minutes.
Add the beer. Add the beer and let it reduce for a minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste.
Cook the risotto. Here’s where you have to pay attention, and don’t leave the pan for longer than a few minutes. We are going to slowly add the chicken stock to gently release the starch from the rice. Add about 3/4 cup of the chicken stock to rice. Use a wooden spoon to stir the rice almost constantly until the liquid is almost all the way absorbed.
Add the rest of the herbs and then repeat the process with the chicken stock until you use all four cups of the chicken stock.
Taste your rice. It should be soft on the outside with a slight chew on the inside. Mine is almost always complete after 4 – 4 1/2 cups of chicken stock and about 20-ish minutes.
Add the parmesan. Once all of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in the parmesan.
Combine everything together. Add most of the veggies and sausage back to the pan. Reserve a little for topping. Toss everything together and season to taste with plenty of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Garnish with parm!
Can I make Cajun Sausage Risotto in Advance?
Yes! Please do! When you reheat you may need to add more liquid, but other than that you’re good to go.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Make sure your chicken stock is room temperature or warm. If it’s cold, it will bring the temperature of the risotto down which will make it take longer to cook and require more cooking liquid.
- Season as you go! We’ve stated in the instructions but it’s important to season along the way. We season the veggies, the rice as it toasts, as it cooks, and finally, in the end.
- Great veggie additions would be okra, corn, mushrooms, or even zucchini.
- If you don’t have beer, you could use white wine, or omit altogether.
- Do not leave the risotto for longer than a few minutes. The key to a creamy risotto is to stir frequently to let the starch slowly release from the rice. Also, if you don’t stir frequently, the rice will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Cheesy Cajun Sausage Risotto
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 14 oz Zatarain's Smoked Andouille Sausage
- 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika, divided
- 2 tsp garlic powder, divided
- 2 tsp onion powder, divided
- 1 tsp dried thyme, divided
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 cup light beer
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 - 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
- Large shallow skillet
- Heat a large shallow skillet to a medium-high heat. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage. Sauté the sausage until it's super brown and crisp, then flip over. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium, and add the peppers, onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and ¼ teaspoon dried thyme to the rendered fat. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until the veggies are softened, but still crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the rice and garlic to the pan. Gently toast the rice for a few minutes.
- Pour in the beer and let it reduce for a minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste.
- Add about 3/4 cup of the chicken stock to rice. Use a wooden spoon to stir the rice almost constantly until the liquid is almost all the way absorbed.
- Add the rest of the herbs and then repeat the process with the chicken stock, adding ¾ cup of the stock until you use 4 cups of the chicken stock. When the rice is finished cooking, it should be soft on the outside with a slight chew on the inside. Mine is almost always complete after 4 - 4 1/2 cups of chicken stock and about 25-ish minutes.
- Once all the chicken stock has been added, stir in the parmesan.
- Add most of the veggies and sausage back to the pan. Reserve a little for topping. Toss everything together and season to taste with plenty of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese.
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