Risotto with carmelized onions, sausage and kale.

This recipe, originally taken from ‘Cooking Light’, has been modified slightly but remains very similar to the original.  It’s been a family favorite home dinner for years now at our house, and adapts very easily to the dehydrator.   Everyone who has tasted it has begged for the recipe and gone on to make it a favorite for their family!

Risotto with Caramelized Onions, Sausage and Kale


  • 1 lb Italian ground sausage or hot sausage
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 2 tsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2C white cooking wine (or any dry white wine)
  • 1C Arborio rice (round, starchy specialty rice, sold in the Italian section of most grocery stores)
  • 5C good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6C fresh kale, chopped finely
  • 1/2C parmesan cheese
  • 1 whole lemon, squeezed and zested

Prep at Home:

Heat the stock in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove until nearly boiling.  Keep it just under a simmer.

Fry the sausage in a large skillet on medium heat, chopping as you go to keep the pieces as small as possible.  When it’s done, dump it (with as much of the grease as possible) into a small-mesh strainer and run it under hot water until the water runs clear, to remove any excess grease.   Set the sausage aside.

Put the chopped onions and balsamic in the same skillet that the sausage came out of, and sauté on medium-low heat for 15-20 mins, stirring regularly so that they caramelize and turn a lovely golden brown but don’t burn.   Add the white wine to the pan and stir until the brown stuck-on bits come loose into the mixture.  Add the Arborio rice and stir constantly until the wine is absorbed (will be very quick).

Turn up the heat a little, to medium.  One cup at a time, add the stock to the skillet and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  As the mixture begins to sizzle and stick to the bottom, add the next cup.  As you add the fourth cup, put in the kale.  Keep stirring – the mixture will begin to get creamy as the Arborio rice releases its surface starch.   When the fifth cup of broth is completely absorbed, add the sausage back to the pan and mix it in thoroughly along with the juice and rind of the lemon.   Sprinkle the top with the parmesan and serve.   This recipe will make 5-6 2C servings.

Adapt to the dehydrator:

After you’ve eaten as much as you want for dinner, put the leftover risotto into the food processor and pulse until the onions, kale and sausage are in small, uniform pieces.   Measure out into 1.5-2C servings and spread onto the mesh dehydrator trays, keeping close track of how many servings you have (each tray will typically hold around 4C).

If your dehydrator has temperature settings, turn it to the meat setting, 165 degrees.  Otherwise, just plug the dehydrator in and leave it overnight.  By morning this recipe will be pretty reliably dry and ready to package up for storage.  It’s ready when it’s crispy-crumbly with no chunks that have moisture still left inside.

Dump the mixture from the trays onto a cutting board or piece of wrap or parchment paper, and crumble with your hands, breaking up any big clumps.   Put the crumbled dried food into one or more zip-locs, labeling each one with the name of the recipe  and the number of servings in that bag.  Push out the air and seal securely.

Since this recipe does have a bit higher fat content I would recommend storing it in the freezer before packing it for the trail.  It should last there for several months.

At camp:

Measure out the necessary amount of water (plus a little for rinsing after) and bring to nearly a boil (or a full rolling boil if you didn’t treat the water ahead of time).

Dump a serving of the risotto into your mug and pour in enough hot water to cover the food plus about a half-inch (or pour the hot water over a serving in the zip-loc).  Wrap the entire mug or bag tightly in foil (including underneath and over the top), or cover with a lid and wrap in a cozy;  then put it out of the wind and wait 15 minutes or so for the food to rehydrate.  If the food is still a little crunchy you can let it wait longer, or if it’s absorbed all the water but is still not fully rehydrated you can add a little more hot water.    I like to put some kind of bread inside the foil on top of the pot to warm while the meal is rehydrating.

Calorie Planning Stats:

Food Serving (gms) Serving (lbs) Calories Carbs (gms) Fiber (gms) Fat (gms) Protein (gms) Cals/Gm % Nutritive   Weight* % Carbs % Fats % Protein
Favorite risotto w/sausage & greens (2C serving), dried to   10% MC 250 0.6 740 106 8 20 42 3.0 64% 61% 13% 26%

2 comments on “Risotto with carmelized onions, sausage and kale.

    • Yes, this is one of my favorite trail dinners! Since putting up this recipe on the blog I have most commonly been making it without washing away the sausage fat and it hasn’t caused any problems. You might only have an issue if you put the food in a resupply box that sits in warm temps for weeks – there is a bit of surface fat and that could go rancid after awhile.

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