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Dirty Risotto (Gluten Free + Dairy Free!)

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Dirty Risotto – This one-pan dinner is a cross between Cajun dirty rice and Italian Risotto. Loaded with sausage, peppers, and more, this risotto’s got it all! (Gluten-free, dairy-free)

Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life

Do you have a signature dish? Something you make for company or know is going to be a hit every time you serve it to someone new? I’ve always loved that idea, but I don’t know if I really have one…

One of my sister’s signature dishes (she’s a great cook!) is her Dirty Risotto. If you’re wondering where the name “dirty risotto” came from, it’s something Giada De Laurentiis came up with. It’s a cross between Cajun Dirty Rice and Italian risotto.

And it. is. amazing.

It had been AGES since I had it, and I got a craving in a big way the other week.  I made it last week with a few teensy adjustments (like skipping the cheese–I miss you Parmesan!), and OH, DOLLY. It’s good.

This dirty risotto gets its great flavor from peppers and onions, and instead of using spicy Andouille or smoked sausage (like you would in Cajun dirty rice), we’ve used Italian sausage here. My sister got me onto adding plenty of mushrooms, and I love experimenting with fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, or parsley are nice!). With the creaminess you can coax out of arborio rice, it’s just as dreamy as can be, and it gets even better with time!

It’s one of those recipes that’s SO easy but is completely LOADED with flavor. Here’s what you need to get started…

Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life


ARBORIO RICE. Arborio rice is a plump, short-grain variety of rice that gets extra starchy when cooked and stirred. That’s why it’s so classic for things like risotto and rice pudding! You can get lots of creamy goodness without any cream!

BROTH. To add flavor in every step, we cook the rice using broth. I most often use chicken broth, but you can use beef or veggie–whatever you have on hand!

GROUND SAUSAGE. You can use lots of different sausage varieties in this risotto–chicken, turkey, pork, etc. I most often use chicken Italian sausage or pork sausage. I don’t recommend pre-cooked sausage links for dirty risotto.

MUSHROOMS. To develop the flavor even more and add some extra heartiness to this dirty risotto, I love adding plenty of mushrooms. I mince them finely so they sort of just blend right in with the creamy risotto!

RED ONIONS + BELL PEPPERS. Now, for some color! I love the bright colors and bold flavors of bell peppers + red onions. I like mixing at least 2 colors of bell pepper together, but you can use whatever varieties you have on hand. (Similarly, you can totally use a sweet or white onion instead of red, if that’s what you’ve got!)

A FEW FLAVOR BOOSTS. To round things out, you’ll season this with salt, pepper, and some fresh herbs (if you have them). I often also like adding a clove of garlic, but it’s not 100% essential here.

Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life


ONLY USE ARBORIO RICE. You really do want to use arborio rice for this dirty risotto recipe. It’s a short-grain rice suited for risotto because of the starch content. It’ll give you the creamiest results, especially with plenty of stirring. If you make it with other varieties of rice, you’ll likely end up with fairly mushy risotto and it won’t have the same creamy consistency.

AN EASIER STIRRING METHOD! In traditional risotto recipes, you add broth about 1/2 cup at a time and keep stirring. After reading Tyler Florence’s Test Kitchen book a few years ago, I gave this up and adopted his method of adding all the liquid at once and stir-stir-stirring the whole time. It’s much less fuss for me, and I get creamy results every time.

HOW TO REHEAT LEFTOVER DIRTY RISOTTO. Rice continues to absorb liquid once it’s cooked, so you’ll likely need to add a little more liquid (broth, water, whatever you please) to the leftovers to regain that creamy texture. I often make this in the morning so it can develop flavor all day for dinner. I add a bit more water or broth as I heat it up for dinner and it’s as delightful as can be.

FOR A TOUCH OF DECADENCE…you can add a splash of cream, milk, or Parmesan cheese (if you tolerate dairy). I’ve had it those ways in our pre-dairy-free days and it was AWESOME.

Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life


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Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life

Dirty Risotto (Gluten + Dairy Free)

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  • Author: One Lovely Life, adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis
  • Total Time: About 50 min
  • Yield: About 7 cups 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Dirty Risotto – This one-pan dinner is a cross between Cajun dirty rice and Italian Risotto. Loaded with sausage, peppers, and more, this risotto’s got it all! (Gluten-free, dairy-free) 


  • 812 oz. Italian Sausage* (I use 6oz mild/sweet and 6oz hot/spicy)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 8oz mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 56 cups broth (veggie, chicken, or beef)
  • 23 Tbsp fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or parsley)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil


  1. In a large pot (I prefer a Dutch Oven), heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned and completely cooked through. Drain excess fat as desired.
  2. Add bell peppers, onion, and mushrooms and cook 4-5 minutes, or until veggies are softened.
  3. Add in rice and stir in. Cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add 5 cups of broth to the pot and begin stirring. Stir consistently while the water absorbs, about 20-25 minutes. Taste and check if rice is tender. If needed, add more broth to the pot and continue stirring until rice is tender and creamy. Add salt and pepper, to taste and sprinkle with fresh herbs.


*You can use pork, chicken, or turkey sausage for this recipe. Whatever you like or have on hand!

  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: About 45 min
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life Dirty Risotto from One Lovely Life

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  1. This was a huge hit at our house! Even my sausage hating daughter and my husband who never compliments food both asked me to make it again.

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