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Squash Risotto

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Squash Risotto

Squash Risotto

Photo © Molly Watson
I created this squash risotto - rich and sweet from the smooth and satisfying texture of winter squash - after eating a risotto de potiron (pumpkin risotto) in Paris that was served in a glass jar. The combination of pumpkin and glass made me think of Cinderella. And who doesn't want a bowl of fairy tale for dinner?

Butternut squash will be the easiest to find for many people, but other winter squash work well here too. I, for one, like a red kuri for this dish when I can find one. Kabocha squash is also an excellent choice. If you decide to make it a truly pumpkin risotto, be sure to buy cheese, sugar pie, or other flavorful pumpkins.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small-ish bite-size cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, brought to a simmer
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preparation:

  1. In a heavy, medium pot over medium heat melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, the cubed squash, the minced garlic, and the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. The squash will not be cooked through yet, and that's okay - it will continue to cook with the rice.
  2. Add the rice and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, until the edges of each grain of rice turn translucent, about 2 minutes. The grains of rice will stick to the squash cubes a bit, which is fine - everything will combine as you add the broth. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it's all absorbed and evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of the simmering broth. Cook, stirring, until the broth is almost entirely absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb each batch before adding more broth. Continue until the rice is almost tender to the bite but still has some body when bitten into. The rice should look creamy and you should be able to eat with either a spoon or a fork.
  4. Stir 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese into the risotto. If you want to make a creamier, richer risotto, add the cream. Note, however, that the winter squash will have added plenty of creamy texture, since as it cooks it starts to dissolve a bit into the broth and coat the rice in a most pleasing way. Serve the risotto immediately, while it's hot, garnished with additional Parmesan, if you like.

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