Budget-Friendly Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Risotto

You don’t need really fancy ingredients to make an elegant dish. This recipe uses economical plain white rice and other wallet-smart selections. It’s a comforting risotto that’s perfect for a winter weeknight meal, yet fancy-ish enough for a date night or cozy dinner party.

What makes a meal budget-friendly? That’s a hard question to answer since it depends on many factors, like where you live, what you have access to, or your personal economics. If you cook a lot already and have basic pantry staples and equipment, a home cooked meal may cost less for you than someone who needs to purchase ALL the ingredients for that same meal. 

Here’s what I do know…meal planning is a great way to save money on groceries overall. We can plan meals around pantry staples, weekly sales, and seasonal produce to stretch our dollars further. It gives us the ability to create shopping lists for only the ingredients we need and control over which ingredients we choose. 

Some recipes are inherently budget-friendly, and others can be tweaked to make them so…like this risotto recipe! If I were making the real deal, I would make this with arborio rice, white wine, premium stock, Parmigiano Reggiano, and pancetta. However, swapping those ingredients for economical alternatives makes smart money sense, and still yields a delicious, comforting and creamy risotto. 

How did I do it? I raided my pantry, shopped sales and store brands, and chose a seasonal vegetable. Here’s how the two versions compare (costs are for the exact measurement of each ingredient needed and do not include tax):

For less than $10, you can feed a family of six…or four really hungry family members! With modest base ingredients, even the non-budget version comes in at a good price considering you can easily spend $19 for one order of risotto at a restaurant. My takeaway – make more risotto!

Fun fact! You can make risotto with grains other than arborio rice. Farro, barley, quinoa, millet and regular white rice can all stand in (although the amount of broth and cooking time will vary by grain). White rice, especially, is a very budget-friendly option.

Gather Your Ingredients

  • Fresh Brussels sprouts – are roasted before adding to the risotto. Save any crispy leaves that fall away during roasting to garnish the finished dish.
  • Olive oil –  tossed with the Brussels sprouts before roasting. 
  • Spices – kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper
  • Uncured bacon – adds amazing flavor to the risotto. The rendered fat is used to sauté aromatics.
  • Aromatics – fresh onion and garlic cloves.
  • White rice – medium or long grain rice. I’ve used both and will say that I prefer medium grain for the final texture. Long grain requires more broth, too, but either will work. 
  • Lemon juice – or white wine vinegar, provides an acidic note that balances the creamy richness.
  • Chicken broth – or vegetable broth. The recipe calls for 6 to 8 cups. You may not need all of the liquid, but it’s better to have it at the ready.
  • Unsalted butter – is added at the end for another layer of flavor and creaminess.
  • Parmesan cheese – provides a nutty, saltiness and melts into the risotto for even more creaminess.

How to Make Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Risotto

  1. Roast the Brussels sprouts – Toss Brussels sprouts with 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp kosher salt & several grinds of black pepper. Spread the Brussels sprouts across a sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes in a preheated 450°F oven, stirring halfway through.
  2. Heat the broth – In a large saucepan or pot, bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. 
  3. Crisp the bacon – Add the diced bacon to a cold, large saucepan, then place over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain; leave the rendered fat in the saucepan. 
  4. Cook the aromatics – Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. (We don’t want to brown the onions, so adjust the heat as needed.)
  5. Cook the rice – Add the rice and lemon juice; stir to coat the grains. Add a ladleful of broth and stir. Wait until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more broth. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through. You many not need all the broth.
  6. Finish the dish – When the rice is cooked through, stir in the butter and parmesan, then the Brussels sprouts and bacon. Cook a minute or two longer to warm through; add more broth if needed to ensure a creamy consistency. Season with black pepper.

Helpful Recipe Tips

  • There’s really no need to stir risotto constantly. Give it a stir every 30 seconds or so to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and that the liquid is distributed evenly. 
  • To know that it’s done, taste it to make sure it’s just tender throughout. If the grains are still crunchy in the center, continue cooking, adding broth as needed. Be careful not to overcook the rice or it will become clumpy and gummy. 
  • It is important to use hot broth when making risotto. Adding already warmed broth to warm risotto will help maintain a consistent temperature resulting in evenly cooked grains.
  • The broth will reduce and concentrate as it’s absorbed by the rice. If you’re sensitive to salt, consider diluting your broth with water to temper the saltiness – even with reduced-sodium broth.
  • Reserve crispy roasted Brussels sprout leaves and a few bacon crumbles to garnish the risotto before serving. Don’t forget an extra sprinkle of parmesan.

Recipe Variations

Add different flavors or make a more traditional version of risotto with these variations.

  • Use 1/2 cup of dry white wine instead of lemon juice.
  • Use homemade broth or stock.
  • Use real Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Substitute the bacon for pancetta.
  • Substitute other firm green vegetables for the Brussels sprouts.
  • Add sautéed sliced mushrooms. 

Linda Feller has been a Plan to Eat superfan since 2013 and will gush about the app with anyone who expresses the least bit of interest. She is a recipe developer, food photographer and the gal behind Sip + Sanity, recipes for entertaining and celebrating. 

www.sipandsanity.com

FB | Instagram | Pinterest: @sipandsanity

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Budget-Friendly Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Risotto

Source: Sip + Sanity | Linda Feller for Plan to Eat

Course: Main Course

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 1 hr

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts trimmed & halved (quarter larger sprouts)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 14 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 6-8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 8 oz uncured bacon diced
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-12 cups white rice medium or long grain
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 12 cup grated parmesan plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Mise en place: cut all vegetables and bacon as instructed. Measure out or stage the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together brussels sprouts, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp kosher salt & several grinds of black pepper. Spread the brussels sprouts across the sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. When done, remove to a trivet. (Reserve any extra crispy leaves to garnish your risotto at the end.)
  4. Meanwhile, place broth in a pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. (The broth will reduce and concentrate as it's absorbed by the rice. If you're sensitive to salt, consider diluting your broth with water to temper the saltiness – even reduced-sodium broth.)
  5. Add the diced bacon to a cold, large saucepan, then place over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain; leave the rendered fat in the saucepan. (Reserve a few bacon crumbles to garnish the risotto before serving.)
  6. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. (We're not looking to get a lot of color on the onions, so adjust the heat as needed.)
  7. Add the rice and lemon juice; stir to coat the grains. Add a ladleful of broth and stir until the most of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through. You many not need all the broth. (There's really no need to stir constantly, just as often as needed to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot and that the liquid is distributed evenly.)
  8. When the rice is done, stir in the butter and parmesan. (To know that it's done, taste it to make sure it's tender. If the grains are still crunchy in the center, continue adding broth.)
  9. Stir in the brussels sprouts and bacon. Cook a minute or two longer to warm through; add more broth if needed to ensure a creamy consistency. Season with black pepper and garnish with reserved bacon crumbles, crispy brussels sprouts leaves and a sprinkle of parmesan.

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