Fall Recipe: Risotto alla Zucca

Fall is right around the corner and while that means the end of beach days, the end of swimming outdoors, the end of long sunny evenings, it also means the beginning of fall traditions, including those involving warm, filling comfort food.

If you like you like the savory-sweet taste of pumpkin, this recipe is perfect. Risotto alla zucca, pumpkin risotto, is a typical dish in the Lombardy region. If you’re already an expert risotto chef, this will be an easy upgrade to the traditional risotto giallo, which uses just saffron as a flavoring. If not, the instructions below will walk you through the basic steps for making a risotto, with the addition of tasty pumpkin and nutmeg.

This recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free and can even be made vegan (just get rid of the butter altogether and use a cheese substitute instead of the cheese). Whether you make the vegetarian or vegan version, we’re sure you’ll like it as much as we do!

Risotto alla zucca, serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small Mantovana or Delica pumpkin (c. 700g)
  • 1 small onion (c. 150g)
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 350g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 700ml broth
  • 2-3tsp nutmeg
  • 80g grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt (to taste)

Preparation

  1. Cook the pumpkin. It can either boiled by cutting it up (after removing the rind and seeds), but a tastier way of cooking the pumpkin is to roast it. Do this by carefully cutting it in half, removing the seeds and baking in a pan at 200°C for about 30-40 minutes, until the pulp is soft. Let cool, spoon out pulp and discard the rind.
  2. Dice the onion. Saute onion in the olive oil and butter until transparent, then add the pumpkin. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then remove from the pan.
  3. Heat the broth in a separate pan. Add the rice to the original pan and “toast” it by cooking on high, stirring often. Then add the white wine. Turn down the heat. Begin adding the broth as the rice cooks.
  4. After about 15 minutes (or halfway through the rice’s cooking time depending on the variety used) add the onion and pumpkin mixture. Continue adding broth until the rice is al dente (more or less broth may be needed to cook the rice). Remove from heat.
  5. Add the nutmeg to taste, the grated cheese and any additional salt if necessary. Buon apetito!

Risotto Time

Risotto with saffronI’m talking to you very openly: I’m not a good chef at all. But… I am a very good risotto-maker, but it’s the only dish that seems to be impossible to burn!

Now, I wanna let you know HOW I became the best risotto chef of Milan, just describing you my two own specialties!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (600g) short grained rice, e.g. Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) good meat broth, boiling hot
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 ounces (70 g) beef marrow (get this from your butcher, or an oriental market), minced
  • A small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white (not oaky) wine, warmed if possible
  • A packet of saffron pistils (about 0.1 g — powdered will do, but pistils are much better)
  • 2 1/3 cups (120 g) grated Parmigiano (half this if you are using the risotto as a bed for ossibuchi)
  • 6 sheets real gold leaf (quite optional, as garnish for a truly extravagant meal) – another option for garnishing is 6 chives

Preparation:

Place the saffron pistils in a bowl to steep with some of the meat broth.

In a casserole, simmer the finely sliced onion and the beef marrow in half the butter over an extremely low flame for about 10 minutes; the onion should become translucent but not brown. Remove the onion and marrow with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Sauté the rice over a moderate flame for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly lest it stick and burn. About a minute before the rice is done, return the onion mixture to the pot. Stir in the warmed wine, and cook, stirring, until it has completely evaporated. Then stir in a first ladle of the hot broth, and once most has been absorbed, another, stirring and adding liquid until the rice is almost at the al dente stage.

Stir in the saffron pistils, the remainder of the butter, half the cheese, turn of the flame, and let the risotto sit covered for a minute. Then serve it, either as a bed for ossibuchi alla milanese or as a first course, with the remainder of the cheese on the side. If you are serving the risotto with the gold leaf, divvy it into individual portions in the kitchen and carefully lay a sheet of gold over each. Or, you could go with a chive, as is shown here.

Note: When you add the wine, it is very important that it be warm, because the addition of cold liquid will shock the rice and make it flake.

Risotto al salto

It’s hard to believe one could ever have leftover risotto alla milanese. However, stranger things have happened, and this is a traditional way of reworking it. The term, al salto, means toasted; Alessandro Molinari Pradelli says “the tossing is best left to expert cooks who know how to handle a skillet.” The less expert may want to cover the skillet with a lip-free lid, flip everything, and then slide the rice back into the skillet to brown the other side. Dont worry if you will scatter rice all over the stove..just normal procedure!

Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Leftover Risotto alla Milanese
  • Unsalted Butter

Preparation:

This said, to make risotto al salto you will need leftover risotto alla milanese, unsalted butter, and a broad skillet. Melt enough butter to coat the bottom of the skillet and add the rice, spreading it over the skillet to form a flat cake. Cook until the bottom of the cake is gilded, then cover the pan with a lid that doesn’t have a lip. Flip pan and lid, so the risotto comes to rest on the lid, return the pan to the burner, and carefully slide the risotto from the lid back into the pan to sauté the other side as well. If the rice has absorbed all the butter, you may want to add a little more butter to the pan before you return the rice to it. In any case, the rise is done as soon as it has gilded on the other side too.

Serve hot, with a lively white, for example a Bianco di Lugana, or a zesty red, for example a Valpolicella Classico.