After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine: the Cook’s Resource, in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard now writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues. She and her husband, the Resident Wine Maniac, have recently moved to Italy.
I START MAKING this risotto in the fall, but continue throughout winter. It is one of my favorites from Gourmet Magazine 20 years ago. This risotto showcases butternut (or similar) squash by incorporating a rough purée made from one half of the squash and the other half, diced and roasted. I use a 10-inch sauté pan to make it. You do not need a special risotto pan. Use leftover squash risotto to make little arancini, little rice balls that get fried up (and devoured): I place a small piece of mozzarella with chopped sage in the middle, roll a small amount of the risotto mixture around it, and then follow the directions for any arancini recipe for frying.
One thing peeling butternut squash requires is a sturdy peeler. My favorite has been one from Messermeister, but it doesn’t seem to be around anymore. So the important things to look for in a peeler are a well-designed handle that fits your grip and, possibly more important, a blade that is not cheap and doesn’t fall off its hinge under pressure.
You really don’t need a “risotto pan.” Even in the sublime restaurant Da Fiore in Venice, the waiter brings it out in a copper saucepan, stirring your portion before it is plated. Pictured is the 4-quart sauté pan, which I have used daily for more than 40 years. It works as well for risotto as it does for rib chops. A copper pan is an investment, but I can attest that it gives results like no other piece of cookware and will last beyond your lifetime and never go into a landfill.
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 1 3-pound (1 1/3kg) butternut squash
- 3½ cups (¾lt) chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1 cup (¼lt) water
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
- 2½ teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger
- 5 tablespoons (74ml) unsalted butter
- 1 cup Arborio, Nano or Carnaroli rice
- ½ cup (118-1/3 ml) dry white wine
- ¼ cup (60ml) chopped chives
- Parsley and Parmesan shavings for garnish
- Preheat oven to 450F (230C) and oil a shallow baking pan.
- Halve the squash lengthwise, and scrape out seeds. Put one half cut-side down onto sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes.
- Peel the remaining half and cut it into a ¼-inch (2/3cm) dice.
- Add the diced squash to the sheet pan that is already baking the half squash, spreading the diced pieces into a loose single layer. Season them with salt and pepper.
- Bake the squash dice and the half squash another 15 minutes. They both should be tender.
- Scoop out the flesh from the squash half and roughly chop it.
- Bring the broth to a bare simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.
- In a 4-quart (3¾ lt)casserole, gently sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in the butter until just softened.
- Stir in the rice and coat with the soffrito you just made with the onion, garlic, and ginger, using a wood spoon.
- Add wine, stirring until it completely absorbed.
- Stir in the simmering broth in ¼-cup increments, stirring so that it gets absorbed by the rice before adding the next one.
- Stir in the all the squash about halfway through the process.
- Finish with your final ladles of stock. It should be just under 20 minutes.
- Stir in chives, and salt and pepper to taste.
- The chopped squash should give a creaminess to the risotto, so that you will just garnish with curls of Parmesan (done easily with a peeler) and additional chopped chives or parsley.
- Serve immediately in warm bowls.
- You can prep the squash the day before: Cool it and then cover and refrigerate.
- My preference is always for Carnaroli Rice instead of Arborio. I think it gives superior results.