Italian Fried Rice
Certain things are such staples in my current life that I often forget they haven’t always been. And while I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when the majority of these wonderful items/practices appeared, I now can’t imagine surviving without them.
(It makes me weirdly happy that younger Serena had no idea these glorious things would be coming down the pike. Surprises are the best!)
A few glaring examples:
- Winged eyeliner
- Blonde hair
- Game of Thrones (casual 2019 convert)
- King bed
- Highline Wellness CBD gummies
- Less Fruit, Not Gross Smoothie
- Melissa Wood Health workouts
- Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari BabyFacial
- #notsponsored Yeti products
- Casamigos tequila
- My bath tray
- Italian Fried Rice
I could wax poetic about all of the above (and God knows I have at various points on this site and on Instagram), but I want to focus specifically on the magic of Italian Fried Rice today, as it has yet to receive its blog due.
I’ve been holding off on posting an official recipe for this one-skillet wonder because I’m not sure I’ve ever made it exactly the same way twice. But what I’ve come to realize is that the malleability of this “recipe” is, in fact, its greatest selling point.
You can play with the grain, vegetables, and toppings based on what you have on hand, but the overall impression and flavor party remains relatively consistent. There’s an epic sweet and savory thing happening thanks to the combination of a whole grain, veggies, chicken sausage, and the addictive tart-sweetness of balsamic. And topping the whole shebang with fresh herbs, crunchy nuts, and a creamy cheese makes for truly epic, insanely textured bites. The result is a hearty but not overly heavy meal that’s loaded with fiber, protein, and antioxidants. HALLELUJAH.
Consider the below recipe a roadmap to create your own Italian-inspired dream skillet. I trust your creative instincts, but for those who enjoy specific “you do you” options, these are a few of my favorite ways to riff:
- Sub farro, quinoa, barley, or pearled couscous for brown rice. Or try cauliflower rice to keep things grain-free.
- Swap uncooked turkey or chicken sausage for pre-cooked links, or throw in leftover diced or shredded chicken.
- Skip fresh herbs and top each serving with a dollop of pesto.
- Keep things plant-based by using your favorite meat-free sausage or subbing chickpeas or white beans.
- Mix a scrambled egg into the rice or top each serving with a fried or poached egg for added protein.
- Get in some extra greens by folding in few handfuls of baby spinach, kale, or arugula and cooking just until wilted.
- A few of my favorite mix-ins/toppings to experiment with: sun-dried tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, pepperoncini, olives, feta, Pecorino Romano, golden raisins, toasted pine or pepitas.
- This fried rice serves two moderately hungry individuals as written, but don’t hesitate to add an extra ½ cup of rice or sausage link if you’re particularly hungry. Just be sure to add an extra dash of balsamic.
Like I said, this recipe serves two, but it’s easily doubled or tripled for a crowd. And while I love it as an easy weeknight dinner, it’s delightful fresh or leftover as a #sassydesklunch. (I think it tastes equally awesome at room temperature.) Oh, and given that every time I make a version of this rice—which is embarrassingly often—Logan claims he would happily crush it every night, so it’s clearly Dude Diet-approved. Virtual chest bump.
Make the rice, friends. You won’t regret it.
Italian Fried Rice Serves 2
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 ounces (2 to 3 links) chicken sausage, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced crosswise into half moons (Any brand/flavor will do, but I like Bilinski’s Italian or Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage.)
1 small zucchini, cut into a ½-inch dice
1 heaping cup chopped broccoli florets
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, cut into a ½-inch dice
Pinch of salt
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice (farro or quinoa is also great!)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (plus extra to taste)
For serving: (optional)
Fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced
Crumbled goat cheese
Sliced toasted almonds
-Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage, and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the sausage to a bowl and briefly set aside.
-Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini, broccoli, onion, bell pepper, and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Stir in the oregano, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
-Return the sausage to the pan, and add the brown rice and balsamic.
-Fold everything together and cook for another minute or 2 until piping hot.
-Serve rice topped with basil or parsley, goat cheese, and almonds, or fancy toppings of your choice!
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