Festive Red (Wine Risotto) For the Holidays

Barbera wine colors and flavors this hearty risotto.

Barbera wine colors and flavors this hearty risotto.


At this time of year, the color red rules.

In “Red Wine Risotto,” it really dazzles, too.

The recipe is from “Eataly: Contemporary Italian Cooking” (Phaidon, 2016) by Eataly, the Italian food brand with mega food emporiums around the world.

The 300 recipes are surprisingly pared down, more like what Italians make at home rather than what four-star chefs labor over at restaurants. The recipes are one-page each with most having just a few paragraphs of directions.

Find everything from “Fresh Pea Soup with Smoked Ham” and “Spaghetti Pasta with Mussels, Clams, Jumbo Shrimp, and Bell Pepper Puree” to “Egg and Pancetta Tartlets” to “Chocolate Puddings with Caramelized Oranges and Amaretti Cookies.”


At the end of the book, there’s also a great primer with photos that gives the lowdown on types of Italian salumi, pastas, rice, fish, beans, grains, breads, and cheeses.

Barbera wine gives this risotto its striking color. You can make the risotto using mostly vegetable broth and some red wine. Or go the full-monty route and make the risotto with nearly all wine, which is what I did, following the “Tip” at the end of the recipe.

The only change I made was to increase the amount of wine used in that method. Originally, the recipe called for using 3 cups red wine plus 2 cups vegetable broth. I changed it to 4 cups red wine plus 2 cups vegetable broth. Maybe it’s because the wine evaporates faster or absorbs into the rice more, but I found that the risotto needed more liquid, as it tended to thicken up quite a bit.

This is a hearty risotto because sausage is mixed into the rice as it cooks. As a result, there is a porkiness to the risotto, as well as a deep earthy-fruity flavor and touch of acidity from the wine.

The purple-garnet color gains luster when the butter and cheese are stirred in at the end, too.

Why cook with just a splash of wine when you can go full bore with cups and cups of it, instead, right? ‘Tis the season.

Red Wine Risotto

(Serves 4)

5 cups vegetable broth (stock) OR 4 cups red wine plus 2 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped onion

7 ounces sausages, skins removed and finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon full-bodied red wine

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon



Pour the broth into a pan and bring to a simmer. Keep over a low heat while you make the risotto.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and cook over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes until soft and translucent, then add the sausage and stir with a wooden spoon until the meat is well browned. Add the rice and toast over high heat for 1 minute, then pour over the 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine, season with salt, and cook until the wine has evaporated. Add four ladlefuls of broth and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 18 minutes, gradually adding in more broth a ladelful at a time and making sure each addition is absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladleful. The risotto is ready when the rice is cooked through but still al dente. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, Parmesan, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Tip: For an excellent red wine risotto, choose Barbera d’Alba. Produced in the Cuneo area of Italy, this wine’s garnet red color will give the dish an attractive appearance and a dry taste. If you like strong flavors, try replacing most of the vegetable broth with wine, using about 4 cups wine to cook the risotto. Bring the wine gently to a boil, as if it were broth, then gradually add it to the rice in the same way as the broth in the recipe above.

Adapted from “Eataly: Contemporary Italian Cooking” by Eataly


More Risotto Recipes: Barley Risotto with Thyme Roasted Shrimp


And: Green Risotto with Mushrooms


And: Risotto of Irish Oats


And: Rice-Cooker Risotto Milanese


And More Wine-Tinged Food: Zinfandel Spaghettini with Spicy Rapini

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