There was a butternut squash in my pantry that needed to be used. The best Italian recipes are always the simplest, and so I decided to use the squash to make risotto with no other ingredients except the squash and the “usual suspects” for risotto: rice, stock, onion, white wine, butter, parmigiano, salt and pepper. The same recipe also applies to pumpkin. I do not like peeling pumpkin or squash, because the skin is very tough, which makes it easy for the knife to slip and cut yourself. So I like to bake pumpkin or squash in the oven until tender, so you can simply scoop out the flesh with a spoon. This risotto is simple but nice, and really brings out the flavor of the squash. Here is what I did…
For 2 servings
1/2 butternut squash, which will yield about 250 grams (1 cup) squash puree
130 grams (2/3 cups) risotto rice, such as carnaroli
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil (or butter)
750 ml (3 cups) vegetable stock
1 Tbsp butter
30 grams (1 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F (fan forced). In the mean time, cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Bake the squash on a baking sheet with 120 ml (1/2 cup) of water in the oven at 190C/375F until tender, about 45 minutes. Then take it out of the oven to cool.
Start with the risotto while the squash is cooling. Heat up 750 ml (3 cups) of vegetable stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil (or butter) in a wide thick-bottomed pan, and add a small minced onion.
Cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until the onion is slightly golden, about 10 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add 130 grams of risotto rice.
Toast the rice over medium heat until it is very hot and the edges become translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add 60 ml (1/4 cup) of dry white wine.
Stir over medium heat until the wine has evaporated.
Add a ladle of hot vegetable stock.
Stir until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. When that happens, add another ladle of stock and keep stirring.
When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Discard the skin.
Mince the squash flesh to obtain a puree.
Add 250 grams (1 cup) of the squash puree to the risotto. (Reserve the remaining squash puree for another use.)
Stir the squash puree through the rice. Keep adding stock and keep stirring until the rice is cooked al dente, about 16-18 minutes of total cooking time.
Taste whether the rice is al dente: it should still have a nice bite to it, but not a tough kernel.
When the rice is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and add a final ladle of hot vegetable stock.
Add 30 grams of freshly grated parmigiano, as well as a tablespoon of butter, cut into small pieces.
Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow the risotto to rest like this for a couple of minutes. The final process of adding butter, parmigiano, and allowing the risotto to rest is called mantecare. It will give the risotto its creamy texture.
Serve the risotto on preheated plates, garnished with a bit more freshly grated parmigiano.
Burrata is a fresh cheese from the Italian region of Puglia that is like a creamy version of mozzarella. Orecchiette with spinach, burrata, lemon, and spinach is a great way to enjoy it.