I love risotto. LOVE. Standing at the stove, gently stirring the grains while listening to music can be extremely cathartic at the end of a long day. And the reward is a delicious, creamy bowl of joy. There’s nothing difficult about it; it just requires a bit of attention. The trick is to keep your stock hot on the stove next to your grains for a consistent temperature and use a ladle to gradually add the liquid. Don’t worry about stirring constantly. I don’t. In fact, if you let it sit for a bit the rice on the bottom gets toasted instead of mushy. You know, I’ve never actually heard anyone say risotto is difficult. I just hear people say “Everyone says risotto is difficult to make, but really it’s not!” It’s like some kind of strange myth.
Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled (I used the side without the seeds)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounce pancetta, diced
- 1/3 cup minced shallots
- 3/4 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice (I recommend Tenuta Castello Carnaroli)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine, preferably Italian (never use a wine you wouldn't drink)
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Carefully peel and cut the squash into small cubes (about 3/4 inch). No one ever really discusses this in recipes but the first time I ever tried to peel and cube a pumpkin I was... out of my element, to put it nicely. If you've never done this before, just keep in mind that you want to cut it into workable pieces and always cut AWAY from your hand against a flat surface. A sharp knife really helps. Tuck your fingers in. Fingers are good.
- Place the squash in a roasting pan and toss it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until very tender. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes or so, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan (a little heavy on the Parmesan never hurt anyone). Mix well and serve.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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PS- I have to mention that I never stick to salt and pepper amounts. Always season according to taste! AND I was going to attempt to take a picture of this gorgeous risotto in the cute bowls I purchased this weekend. However, we were so hungry by the time this was ready we inhaled it. And it was DELICIOUS.