Autumn is to me the orange season: pumpkins, persimmons and red-yellowish leaves decorate homes, landscapes and also markets. A joy to the eye! Squash, of course, is the queen of orange vegetables. Though not very tasty if taken alone, you can cook it in a lot of different manners, all of them absolutely scrumptious.
Butternut squash risotto (or pumpkin risotto, as well) is a seasonal dish typically from Northern Italy (all the area around Mantua is famous for producing squashes). I personally adore risottos and this is one of my favorite. To enhance the squash flavor, I love to add some chili peppers (a gift for my husband) as well as cloves and nutmeg for a very perfumed and autumnal note. —Rita Banci
- Serves 2
butternut squash, peeled and cubed
hot vegetable stock
small dried chili peppers
extravergine olive oil
grated parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese)
freshly ground white pepper
a pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground
salt to taste
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots, chili peppers and cloves and let them cook for about 2-3 minutes or until shallots are soft and golden. Add the cubed squash and cook covered for about 15 minutes, until rather soft.
- Now add the uncooked rice and let it sauté for about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly and swiftly with a wooden spoon (the rice grains should be all covered with oil but must not turn brown). Remove the cloves and chili peppers.
- Pour a ladle of hot stock over the rice and let it simmer, stirring constantly to prevent rice from scorching (note that the stock must be hot because otherwise the cooking process is stopped). When the liquid is all absorbed, pour another ladle of stock, stirring all the time, and let it cook till it’s absorbed again; repeat until you have no more stock left and the rice is completely cooked (it will take about 20 minutes). This method of adding a ladleful of stock at a time allows rice starch to be released thus giving risotto a very creamy texture. The risotto is ready when it’s al dente, that is grains are tender but rather firm, though not hard (if for any reason the rice is not done yet, add some hot water as you did with the stock and keep cooking).
- At this point, remove the risotto from heat. Stir in parmesan and butter and finally nutmeg and white pepper. If the vegetable stock is already salted, adding more salt would be probably unnecessary. In any case, wait until parmesan is stirred in before adjusting the seasoning, because it is a rather tasty cheese itself.
- Serve immediately.