Mushroom Risotto

Today let’s talk about two things: risotto and yoga.

A few years ago, my youngest sister Patty came to Boston to spend Christmas with me. I was still beginning to feel my way around the kitchen then.  For dinner one night, I made her a mushroom risotto with Italian sausage on the side. Even if she knew that the risotto was from the Trader Joe’s frozen aisle, and that I microwaved the entire package, she said it was delicious.

My little sister, so wise and and strong and striking, sometimes acts more mature than I do (or than our middle sister does). Patty never demands for anything, and works tirelessly for her goals. She’s now a lawyer, and I often joke that I’m happy she can bail me out of jail if need be, but truly I am nothing but proud of her.

She’s also going to become a yoga teacher. (A lawyer AND a yoga teacher. I dare you not to be impressed.)

She’s the one who introduced me to power yoga, and I haven’t stopped practicing vinyasa yoga ever since she guided me through my first sun salutation. We used to go to bikram yoga together, and I remember that even in the middle of the toughest poses, just knowing that she’s in the same hot sweaty room as I am, gave me comfort.

30 days ago I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do: I completed a 30-day Yoga Challenge. That means I practiced yoga every single day for a full month. Usually for 60 minutes, sometimes 75, sometimes 15. I did hot yoga on most days, but on other days I would just practice in my living room with one of my favorite yoga apps on my iPhone. Every day, for 30 days. And I dedicated every single session to my dear sister Patty.

I thought of her every day, for 30 days straight, and sent her love and light. My sister, introverted and serious and witty and  ironic all at the same time. My sister, who could pass for a hipster, but is so unpretentious and just really naturally cool. My sister, always so strong on the outside, but mush on the inside.

I also made this Mushroom Risotto for her, even if she’s a thousand miles away, and we won’t see each other until December. This time, I made the risotto from scratch, stirring, hovering, waiting. Adding cups of broth a half cup at a time, stirring, watching, waiting. It’s a test of patience, a labor of love. At the last minute, I cooked a link of Italian sausage again and ate it with the risotto. I imagined Patty saying it was delicious, because it was.

It’s not exactly birthday cake, but I know it’s something my sister would like.

Mushroom Risotto


7 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large Spanish yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chili pepper flakes (optional)
chopped fresh chives for garnish


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add half of the onions. Saute until translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add half of the garlic (and a pinch of chili pepper flakes, if using) and cook for another minute. Add butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and mushrooms, and saute for 5 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, and add remaining onions. Saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir, coating the rice with olive oil and toasting until opaque, for 1 minute.
  3. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and cook, stirring, until all the broth is absorbed by the rice. Continue to cook and add the remaining broth half a cup at a time, allowing the broth to be fully absorbed by the rice before adding more. This will take around 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked and creamy.
  4. Fold in mushrooms and stir in parmesan cheese. Season with more salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with chopped chives before serving.

adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe

The risotto is good as is, but I like eating it with a meaty side, like hot Italian sausage.

Happy birthday, Pats! I dedicated my 30 Days of Yoga to you. Can’t wait to eat risotto with you again. I love you!

PS – For those of you interested, I used the Simply Yoga and Yogify apps. I’ve tried many other but these two are my favorite.  And if you’re curious on the difference between hot power yoga/hot vinyasa and Bikram yoga, I wrote about my thoughts here.