Risotto is one of the most splendid of Italian dishes. Rice, not pasta, is the dominant staple of many northern Italian regions. This cooking technique is uniquely northern Italian. Most of the rest of the world boils rice. Northern Italians braise it with savory ingredients in a flavorful broth which imparts a beautiful color and luscious flavor. Herbs and vegetables may be added at different stages of the cooking process to give the risotto an ever-changing identity. The possibilities are endless. It is one of the most versatile dishes in Italian cooking. The basic ingredients are rice and broth.
To make a perfect risotto, the appropriate rice is key. Arborio rice is most commonly available, but Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice may also be used. Homemade broth has a rich taste that’s hard to duplicate, but store bought vegetable broth or no-chicken stock will work just fine. Risotto is very easy to make if you pay a little attention to detail. Keep the stock hot, and stir, stir, stir, especially during the last few minutes of cooking. Taste often so you know when it’s time to stop cooking. In our house, this is comfort food. Unless you’re adding butternut squash, risotto is a meal you can have on the table in about thirty minutes. The recipe I’m sharing with you is Risotto with Butternut Squash. If you happen to have a roasted squash on hand you could still pull this off in thirty minutes. Otherwise the squash will take about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to roast.
- 2 pound butternut squash
- 6 cups of broth
- 3 tbsp buttery oil, like grape seed oil, or olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely minced yellow onion
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
- Wrap the squash in foil and place in the oven.
- Bake about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.
- Cool, the squash, then unwrap it.
- Scoop out the pulp and place in a bowl.
- Set aside, covered, until ready to use. You should have abut 2 cups of cooked squash pulp.
- Heat the broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
- Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is pale yellow and soft, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir quickly until it’s well coated with the oil, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the wine and stir until it’s almost reduced.
- Begin adding the hot broth 1/2 cup or so at a time. Cook, stirring, until the broth has been absorbed.
- Continue stirring and cooking the rice, adding broth a bit at a time, for about 12 minutes.
- Add the squash to the rice in a couple of batches and stir well after each addition.
- Cook and stir, adding small additions of broth, until the squash is totally blended with the rice, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the nutmeg. Stir in quickly.
- Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.