Risotto is a welcome dish anytime of the year, I’ve been romanced by a dream of this Spring Harvest Risotto for a couple of weeks. Seeing all those fresh spring peas, asparagus, fava beans, corn and bright yellow squash blossoms at the farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. I got my boys together one Saturday afternoon and we prepped all our ingredients and began cooking this delicious spring risotto.
This recipe is very therapeutic and is a perfect remedy after a stressful day at the office. Making risotto is like romancing a beautiful man or woman, requiring constant love and attention. Choose a wooden spoon or stiff spatula that is comfortable as you will be stirring the risotto constantly for about 20 minutes. Loosen up those wrists. The white wine you choose for your risotto should be one you’d like to drink with your risotto, preferably while cooking.
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Fall reminds me of the harvest, the final gifts from the garden before it is laid to rest. On the farm, we harvested all the fruits and veggies that had reached their flavor peak with the first kiss of frost. We grew a large variety of squash and pumpkins on the farm. There were Blue Hubbard, Acorn, Orange Hubbard, Pumpkin and the humble Butternut Squash. Squash is known for their hardiness and can be kept in the cold cellar the length of the winter without losing their quality or nutritional value.
I always purchase several of these staple fruits this time of year and make dishes that highlight that comforting golden sweet caramelized flavor. I decided to make a Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. For those of you who think Risotto is an exhausting undertaking, I suggest you consider it a little bit of relaxation and centering after an intense day at the office. The 20-25 minutes of rhythmic focus reminds me of the whirling dervish in Turkey in the trance of meditation. Personally, I like to use Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice as they have a nuttier flavor and the grains remain more individual as opposed to the very creamy Arborio.
- 1 Lb. of Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli Rice (Depending on your preference)
- 1 Medium Yellow Onion chopped into 1/8 dice
- 3-4 Cloves of Minced Garlic
- 1 cup of Dry White Wine (Your choice)
- 2 quarts of Stock (Chicken or Vegetable) heated in a saucepan to a slow simmer.
- 1 Roasted Butternut Squash in chunks
- Pinch of Saffron (optional
- 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 ladle (approximately 8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons of Butter
- Grated Parmesano Reggiano Cheese to taste (Optional)
- Roast the butternut squash in advance by peeling one squash and cleaning out the seeds and stringy pulp. Chop squash into 1/2″ cubes and toss the raw cubes with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Lay the squash on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the pieces are soft and golden. Flip squash once during bake time to evenly brown.
- Reserve the squash aside in a container in the fridge or if you’re roasting the squash just before you make your risotto put it to the side in a bowl.
- Make sure to have your favorite wooden spoon or rubber spatula, as this will be your friend for the next 25 minutes.
- In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, add the two tablespoons of olive oil and butter and heat on medium high heat before adding the chopped onions and garlic. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the dry rice to the onions and garlic and saute until all the grains of rice are coated with oil and you begin to hear them sizzle. Do not brown the rice. Add the white wine and stir until the wine is absorbed by the rice. Add a ladle of the hot stock to the rice and stir constantly until the stock is soaked up by the rice. Continue the hot stock additions and stirring constantly to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. After about 5 additions of stock add the roasted butternut squash and stir into the rice. Continue to add hot stock to the rice and squash and stirring between additions of stock until the rice is to the perfect consistency. There is only one way to check for doneness, you must continually taste the rice as your cooking it. The rice should be tender to the tooth with no hardness left. You will note that the squash has contributed to the creaminess of the risotto and is golden orange throughout. Once the rice is to your liking, add the butter and stir to incorporate and add the cheese if that suits you. I personally feel the cheese takes away from the flavor of the squash.
- It is important to remember that Risotto waits for no one, so make sure that your table is set and everyone is ready to eat when you are complete as the rice will begin to get thicker as it sits and cools. Serve on a hot plate to keep the rice hot through the meal. It’s simple to just put your plates in the microwave or oven for 1-2 minutes before serving.
- One of my favorite things to make with leftover risotto is crispy risotto cakes. Simply form about 3-4 tablespoons of risotto into a 3″ disc about 1/4″ thick and drop these into a pan with a few tablespoons of hot oil and cook until crispy and brown on both sides. Don’t try to flip the cakes until they are completely browned as they will fall apart and you will end up with fried risotto rice. Serve on a bed of salad greens with a light vinaigrette or for breakfast with eggs.