Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts Risotto

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1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
16 ounces chicken broth
1/4 white wine

Romano cheese grated

1. Remove the outer leaves and stems of the Brussels sprouts, rinse with water and cut in half (If very large Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters), set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Gently put the Brussels sprouts into the boiling chicken broth. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. With a small strainer, remove the
Brussels sprouts to a bowl and set aside. Keep the chicken broth to use when preparing the risotto.
3. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and onion, saute until tender. Add the pancetta and cook a few minutes more, until golden. Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cook until
lightly toasted, continuously stirring while cooking. Add the white wine and continue cooking until the wine is absorbed.
4. With a ladle, spoon the chicken broth in the pan one ladle at a time until the liquid is absorbed before adding another ladle of chicken broth. Continue Until you have the last ladle of
chicken broth to add, then put the Brussels sprouts in the pan at the same time as the last ladle of chicken broth. Cook until rice is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. At this time taste the risotto, if a bit too hard, cook a few more minutes until more tender.
6. Serve immediately, garnishing with grated Romano cheese on top.
7. ENJOY! – “Risotto” is the new rice!

This recipe is one that originally came to me from an email newsletter I subscribe to called Sunday Pasta, which sends different recipes for Sunday dinner.
The website is

The combination of Brussels sprouts and pancetta in risotto piqued my interest enough to attempt to prepare this recipe. But the recipe was for twice the amount then I wanted to make, so I took the liberty of adjusting the ingredient amounts to half. My preference was to use chicken broth and Romano cheese in my version of the recipe and I eliminated the pepper.

The traditional Sunday dinner is disappearing from my own family’s dinners. Sunday dinner was sacred at one time. Dinner time was late afternoon, no one played with their cell phones and the meal would last for 3 hours. Whether dinner was at home or at an Italian restaurant it was never rushed. Just a few weeks ago, I tried to plan for my kids and grandkids to come to a Sunday dinner at our house in the upcoming weeks. Well, Sunday will not work out because of prior commitments, but Saturday will work. At this point, I am thrilled to have the family for dinner no matter what day of the week it is. Times are different but the value of sitting down to a meal together with generations of family remains the same. Of course, Sunday Pasta will be served!


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Rita's Risotto Balls

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

3 tablespoons butterDSC04318
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cup + 3 ounces water

3 egg yolks
1/ 2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Italian bread crumbs
Canola oil

1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add risotto and cook a few minutes. Add some of the water just to cover the risotto and simmer. Continue sly stir with a wooden spoon. As the risotto thickens, add more of the water at about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition of water is almost completely absorbed before adding the next. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes or more and most of the liquid has been incorporated, continue to cook a few more minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Do not overcook. When done, remove rice from the stove and scoop into a bowl.
2. Cool the risotto completely, not warm, cool (wait a few hours). Option – cook risotto and store in refrigerator overnight, before continuing recipe.
3. Take the cooled risotto and stir in the Parmesan cheese, parsley, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. Use your hands when ready to roll the risotto balls. Make them 1 to 1 1/ 2 inch round. The risotto will be sticky. Then roll the balls into the Italian bread crumbs. Place the risotto ball on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. This recipe makes 30 to 36 balls, depending on the size.
Place cookie sheet of balls into refrigerator for another hour.
4. When you are ready to fry, heat canola oil in a pot or deep fryer. Fry 6 to 8 balls at a time in the fryer basket for 3 to 4 minutes. Check balls, they should be a golden brown color. Drain the balls on paper towels. Serve immediately while still warm. Option – serve homemade tomato sauce on the side for dipping.
5. ENJOY – You say Rice, I say Risotto, either way it tastes Buona!

©  This recipe courtesy of

Risotto Balls? I have had risotto and I have had rice balls, but risotto balls? My reaction exactly, until I tasted Rita’s last Christmas. I’ll never forget the lovely experience of my very first risotto ball.

Maria, my good friend for many years, had her mom staying with her over the holidays. I stopped by for an impromptu visit to say hello and spread some Christmas cheer with a platter of my homemade cookies. Of course, within minutes, I too was offered some of their cookies, but I declined since I was just about cookied out. However, when I was offered what appeared to be a rice ball, I was intrigued and went for it. I thought to myself, wait a minute – hold the show. I didn’t see the familiar sight of meat or peas in this small and delicate ball. The appeal was instantaneous, and I scarfed it down. I knew then that I had to make them myself!

Maria’s mom, Rita, has been making these risotto balls for years, just as long as her own mother, Gelsomina, had before her. Generational recipes handed down from mothers to daughters are my favorite kind of recipes. When the Christmas holidays ended and a new year began, I kept thinking about those risotto balls. Maria, I begged, “Can you get me your mom’s risotto ball recipe?” Finally, I got the call I’d been hoping for. It was Rita calling from her home in Florida, “Maria told me you want my risotto ball recipe.” When I asked her what brand of risotto she used, her response was, “I don’t know what it is, but they sell it in Florida.” Ya gotta love it!

After making the risotto balls, and receiving my family’s praise, I thought to myself – honestly, they’re good, but Rita’s are better. I believe this is one of those dishes that will get better over time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that after another 10 or 20 years, just maybe, my risotto balls will be just as good as Rita’s!


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3 cups uncooked rice
8 sweet sausages
4 eggs separated
1 box frozen peas
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounce whole mozzarella
3 onions, chopped
1 cup Romano/Parmesan grated cheese
Bread Crumbs
Canola oil

1. Cook 3 cups rice (I use Carolina) with 5 cups water. Put NO salt or butter in rice. After rice is cooked. Place into a large bowl to cool
2. In a large frying pan, remove casing from sausages. Break up the sausages into smaller pieces. Cook loose sausage meat until no longer pink in color. Remove sausage meat and all grease except for 2 tablespoons from frying pan. Set meat aside in a bowl.
3. In the frying pan with the 2 tablespoons of sausage grease cook 3 chopped onions until tender. When onions are cooked till tender, add onions to sausage. Remove any liquid from sausage and onions and set aside.
4. Add 1 cup of grated cheese (I use a combination of Romano and Parmesan cheese together) to cooled rice and mix well.
5. Separate 4 eggs, whites and yolks. Mix 4 yolks into rice and cheese until blended well. Add sausage and onion mixture to rice. Mix everything well with a wooden spoon.
6. Lastly, add 1 box of frozen peas, do not defrost, breaking up peas into the rice mixture and 1 can of tomato sauce. Mix everything together until with a wooden spoon.
7. Take mozzarella and make ½ inch cubes. Place on a dish and set aside.
8. Beat egg whites with a fork in a bowl until frothy. Set one dish with flour and another dish with Italian bread crumbs.
9. Heat Canola oil in deep fryer 1/ 2 way.
10. Scoop up a handful of the rice mixture and place a mozzarella cube into the center of rice before packing into a round tight baseball size ball. Gently roll the rice ball in flour and at the same time, packing the flour around the ball. At this point you can place the balls on a tray until you have half of the rice mixture rolled into balls and floured.
11. The floured rice ball then gets dipped into the frothy egg whites and immediately into Italian bread crumbs. Place on a tray until ready to fry.
12. With the heated oil ready, place 2 to 3 balls at a time into the frying basket. Submerge the rice balls into the oil and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull up basket from oil when rice balls are a golden brown color. Place on a tray lined with paper towel for blotting oil.
13. This recipe makes about 2 dozen rice balls. Serve hot with homemade spaghetti sauce.
14. ENJOY! – An appetizer, a side dish or a meal, all rolled into one rice ball!

Call me crazy, but I really enjoy having family and friends come for dinner. Sometimes I entertain large crowds and skip the china in favor of paper plates, or perhaps it’s Sunday dinner and I break out grandma’s china, silverware from my uncle, and wine glasses from my dear friend Saranne. When my table is all set, whether it be with paper plates or the fancy china, I do take pride in what I’ve prepared and in seeing such satisfaction on my guests’ faces! .

Make no bones about it, this rice ball recipe is not for the casual cook. My dear friend Vivian actually came to my house and made rice balls for the first time with me quite a while ago, and it has become a favorite. Yes, it does involve frying – honestly, have you met a fried food you didn’t like? I enlisted my husband for the frying duty. He doesn’t like me using his fryer, so I had no problem relinquishing this step in the recipe. Let me just add that I’ve altered Vivian’s recipe by adding a mozzarella cube in the center. However, this is not an original idea, since most Italian delis will put a piece of mozzarella in the center of their rice balls too. Vivian also uses 3 egg yolks instead of 4. There is a reason I’ve added an extra egg, which you will find out in this story.

Anyway, I had one of these formal dinners a few weeks ago. My menu consisted of 2 hot appetizers (black bean dip with chips and homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard dip) served on the coffee table in the living room. Moving on to my dining room table, Rice Balls served as the first course, followed by Osso Buco (veal shanks), roasted potatoes, green beans and spinach. This was capped by desserts and fruit. The process proved to be quite an undertaking. When I created this menu, I assumed I would prepare the rice balls the day before considering the amount of cooking to be done. Well, that didn’t happen because my grandson, Jared, had a basketball game the night before my dinner. For me, anytime I can see my grandkids is a good enough reason not to stay home and cook. Needless to say, everything had to be prepared in one day. On top of the rice balls, my Osso Buco proved to be a time sucker as well. Here I am in the kitchen with pots and pans on every burner. I am now at the point of rolling the rice balls with my hands and yeah, you guessed it….the rice wouldn’t stick together and the balls were falling apart. If you could have seen me with this huge restaurant size bowl filled with sausage, onions, peas and rice. I was only a couple of hours away from my guests’ arrival and I had no back up 1st course to serve. I tried again to roll the rice into balls and struggled to get them to stick together. Time for a meltdown anyone? That was when my husband told me not to panic and to try adding another egg. Remember that one extra egg yolk I mentioned? Well, it did the trick. I couldn’t believe that in this huge bowl of rice, one little egg yolk could make that much difference. The rice balls came out great, and I received many compliments. Of course, only after my husband told everyone how he saved the rice balls with an egg yolk. Guess I’ll never live this one down!

When cooking actually becomes a labor of love, accept the praise you get in the end – you deserve it!


4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb box uncooked Arborio rice
8 ounces white wine
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley
salt and pepper to taste
14.5oz can petite cut tomatoes in juice

1. Melt the butter and add olive oil in a large casserole or skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and the rice, stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until completely absorbed.
2. Add the chicken broth 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes and most of the liquid has been incorporated, add the tomatoes along with the end of the broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender but still slightly chewy.
3. The risotto should take 18 to 20 minutes of cooking all together. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, most of the basil, parsley and salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto immediately onto plates, top with the remaining basil and serve.
4. ENJOY – Big and long grained rice, risottO tastes so nice!

Life is short; that much we know. In the year 2007, I turned 50 years old. For myself and many other people is a turning point in life. There are certain things we would like to accomplish in our lifetimes before we pass away. I have a dream; two dreams actually. I would like to take two trips; one to Japan and one to Italy.

At the beginning of 2006, I started to plan a trip to Italy for my husband, my younger daughter and myself with friends of ours. Our friends have been to Italy a few times before, and we have been saying for years that when our daughters are in their last year of high school, we should go to Italy together. Their daughter Katie and our daughter Mia have been friends since they were about three years old. As we started to put together the trip, airfares, hotels and expenses, we realized this trip was too expensive for the three of us. I didn’t want to take this opportunity from my daughter, and my friends really wanted Mia to go with them as company for their daughter. At the end of June through the beginning of July, Mia spent ten days in Italy on the trip of a lifetime. Our friends took such good care of her, and I knew our friend, Eddie, Katie’s dad, would not let the girls out of his sight. Mia called almost every night. I think she felt bad that we couldn’t all go together. Her phone calls home every day were minute-by-minute details of her trip as related to us. My husband would get on the extension and she would narrate everything she did and saw that day. Rome, Florence, Milan and Stresa were seen by Mia and shared with us. What I was most interested in was the food. Where did she eat, what was she eating and so on. The food in Italy is fantastic from what I heard. Mia took it one step further and started to photograph her meals and the markets for me. She came home with over 400 photos and a love of Italy. After all her name is Italian, Mia Dominique.

At most of the dinners, Mia didn’t get past the appetizer of risotto or pasta. That was enough for her. So, when she returned, I wanted to continue to give her the flavor of Italy here in her home in New York. She loved this risotto dish and so did we, and this risotto dish will now become a family favorite.

Maybe I didn’t get to Italy yet, but I got the next best thing, my daughter got to live my dream for me. I couldn’t be happier than if I went myself.

Note: I did finally get to Italy, but that is another story!