If you’re a fan of Bravo’s hit show Top Chef, you know that risotto can either win you a challenge, or send you and your knives packing. But risotto doesn’t have to be scary. The two most important things to remember when cooking risotto are to pick the correct type of rice and to stir. Stir, stir, stir. When making risotto, you should use good Italian rice, most commonly Arborio. This rice is short and stubby and will absorb the added liquid, instead of becoming gluey and mushy like long-grain rice. Constantly stirring the rice with a wooden spoon will allow the rice to absorb the liquid, taking on a soft, creamy texture while still retaining its shape. Additionally, it will keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. While there are a variety of risotto recipes, this recipe uses roasted winter squash for a slightly sweet flavor that is so fitting this time of year. Cook this squash risotto for a creamy, comforting side dish or appetizer that is perfect for a fall dinner and worthy of a spot on any Thanksgiving table.
- Winter squash (1 large butternut or 2 small acorn)
- 2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for brushing squash
- 1 large Vidalia onion, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 32 ounces vegetable stock
- 2 cups white wine
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for garnish
- 2 teaspoons pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. (Set seeds aside for optional garnish or snack.) Rub squash with salt and brush with melted butter. Place cut side down in pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with additional butter, and bake for additional 20 minutes with the cut side up. Remove from oven and allow to cool. In a small pot, heat broth on medium heat. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pot on medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Add olive oil and rice to the pot, increasing the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring continuously until rice is translucent (total 5 minutes), reducing the heat back to medium after 2 ½ minutes.
When rice is translucent, add 2 cups white wine or white vermouth and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. Gradually add warm broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, constantly stirring the rice with a wooden spoon, making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Once broth is absorbed, add more, repeating for about 20 minutes until all of the broth has been used and the rice has a creamy texture.
Scoop squash out of the skin using a spoon. There should only be a very thin layer of skin to discard. Stir squash into the risotto. Break up the squash while stirring it into the risotto to create a uniform color and consistency. Stir in 1/2 cup of cheese. Season with pepper.
Optional garnish: Toast squash seeds with salt until lightly browned. Garnish risotto with a sprinkling of seeds and grated cheese.
The idea of making risotto often sounds daunting to many people because of the constant stirring and the process of adding stock in small batches. In reality, it is a dish that can easily be prepared while the main course is in the oven. Even better? It’s a great opportunity to divvy out some responsibility to older children or a relative eager to help in the kitchen. Simply complete the first few steps, and once the rice is ready for the broth, demonstrate the process and hand over the spoon. Step back in for the final steps, and you have a beautiful risotto to add to your holiday menu.
Note: If you’d like to prepare this ahead of time, simply add additional vegetable stock (about a cup) when reheating to maintain the desired consistency.
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