On a cold day like this when your face and hands are frozen and you walk in the door, packages in hand after a day full of frustrations and an overall lack of Christmas cheer, this recipe is what you want to have set in front of you for dinner. Not only is it deliciously seasonal and hearty, but I think the process of making risotto is somehow therapeutic. Standing over a pan full of sauteeing onions and garlic is inherently relaxing--ok, well at least it is for me.
This is a fairly simple and very straightforward recipe that can be scaled down or multiplied to suit any number (trust me, I once made this recipe to feed 70 hungry people!) and can also be made with the pancetta, or vegetarian. My SlowFood students gobbled this risotto up despite some early protests about disliking butternut squash. This will make a believer out of anybody.
Roast Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 4 as a main or 6 as a starter)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
½ cup diced pancetta (optional)
2 cups aborio or canaroli rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
Small bunch of fresh thyme
Grated parmagiano reggiano cheese to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Spread the squash on a baking tray so that it’s all spaced out. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the squash is fairly soft, but not falling apart. Meanwhile, set a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the 3 Tbsp of oil. Add the diced onion and fry for about 4 minutes before adding the pancetta and cook for a further 4 minutes. At this point tip in the rice and continue to stir to coat it with oil. Add the stock a ladleful at a time. Add the squash and thyme and continue to stir (almost) continuously until the liquid is all absorbed. Continue adding stock (and the wine, if using—if not, adjust the amount of stock accordingly) in this manner and stirring until all the stock is gone, the squash is almost all incorporated, and the rice is al dente (should be about 25 minutes in total). Serve immediately topped with the parmagiano.