Sartu Di Riso is one of the classic Italian dishes from my childhood. It’s essentially a mixture of meat, cheese, and sauce encased in rice and baked. I use sweet Italian sausage, beef or turkey meatballs, and fresh mozzarella cheese. The frozen peas might seem random, but they add a great sweetness that cuts through the richness of the other elements.
In Naples, its birthplace, this impressive dish is usually only made on Sunday, when the family is all together and can participate in the preparation. Like Ziti Stufati, it is served at weddings, first communions, and other important events. It’s a dish I learned from my Aunt Raffy and is honestly a time investment, but it is a stunning centerpiece for a big celebration, and when it comes out of the mold you will feel very accomplished.
Sartu Di Riso
For the Rice:
- 1 pound 2 1/3 cups Arborio rice
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage or sweet Italian Turkey sausage
- 1 shallot sliced
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 28ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 sprigs of basil
- 1 2 inch piece of parmesan cheese rind
For the Meat Balls:
- 2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons whole milk at room temperature
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1/2 pound ground sirloin or ground dark meat turkey
- olive oil for frying
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 1 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
- 5 tablespoons bread crumbs divided
- As seen on: Giada in Italy, Episode 9. Nonna Luna's Famous Dish.
- In a large sauce pan combine the Arborio rice, chicken broth, bay leaf and salt. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring once, until the rice is still slightly undercooked but the liquid is absorbed. Pour the rice into a large bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the eggs until well combined and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium high heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and break into small, bite sized pieces. Add to the hot oil and brown the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned sausage to a medium bowl and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot, garlic and salt. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until fragrant and the shallots are soft. Add the tomatoes, basil sprigs and parmesan rind and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the basil and cheese rind. Add 2cups of the sauce to the bowl with the sausage and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, milk and egg with a fork and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Stir in the oregano, salt and cheese. Using your hands, mix in the beef, until just combined. Heat 1/2 inch of olive oil in a medium straight sided pan. Scoop 1 tablespoon mounds into damp hands and roll into uniform balls. When the oil is hot, fry the balls in 2 batches, turning them as needed with a slotted spoon to brown the balls evenly. This will take about 4 minutes. When golden brown and crispy all around, remove the balls using a slotted spoon, to the bowl with the sausage and sauce. Continue with the remaining balls and toss to coat evenly in the sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter the inside of a bundt pan or a 3 1/2 quart Dutch oven, using 1 tablespoon of the butter, making sure to coat it very well. Dust the inside of the pan with 3 tablespoons of the bread crumbs. Make sure it is evenly coated and there are no bald spots. This is very important to prevent sticking.
- To the bowl with the meat mixture, add the peas and diced mozzarella and toss gently to incorporate. Spoon 2/3 of the rice mixture into the prepared bundt pan. Using damp hands, press the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan and 2 1/2 inches up the sides and middle of the pan. Spoon the meat filling into the well of rice and press gently to make sure it is evenly packed. Spoon the remaining rice mixture over the filling and, again, using damp hands, press the rice mixture evenly over the filling being sure to press the rice mixture on top into the rice along the edges to seal. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs and dot with the remaining butter. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Place a plate large enough to cover the top of the pan over the pan. Using hot pads or a towel if needed, invert the sartu onto the plate. Carefully lift the pan off of the rice shaking gently if needed. Warm the remaining sauce and fill the opening in the middle of the molded rice with the sauce.