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!

Make Vegetarian Lasagne at Home

The classic recipe for lasagne al forno (baked lasagna) calls for just a few basic ingredients like the long, flat pasta, a meat ragù sauce, béchamel sauce and cheese. But since we’ve posted some very non-vegetarian dishes, this time we’re publishing a recipe for a dinner with lots of veggies and absolutely no meat: vegetarian lasagne.

So, what’s the story behind lasagna? Besides being Garfield the cat’s favorite food, it’s a food that was eaten way back in Greek and Roman times. The name of their very similar dish, lagane, was probably derived from the word for the pan needed to cook it in the oven. For any food historians out there, note that this dish is technically not considered pasta since the lagane weren’t boiled in water but rather cooked in the oven with sauce. Traditional pasta, the most famous food item in Italy today, wouldn’t come to Italy until it arrived in Sicily by way of the Arabs.

To make this traditional food at home, try out this recipe for vegetarian lasagne, which features mushrooms and zucchini. But remember that any combination of spinach, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, either with or without tomato sauce would be nice, depending on what you like and what’s available in the fridge or at the market.

And if making béchamel sauce on the stove top sounds worse than studying for a hard microeconomics exam, all supermarkets sell ready-made béchamel sauce (just look near where the cream is stocked).

Cooking time: about 40-50 minutes

Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

  • 500g of fresh lasagne
  • 20g dried mushrooms
  • 175ml warm water
  • 100g butter
  • 350g zucchini
  • 1 diced onion
  • 300g fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 500g tomato sauce
  • 100g grated parmigiano-reggiano or grana cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for béchamel:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 40 g flour
  • 900 ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  1. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water. Remove them after about 20 minutes, squeezing out any liquid, then sift the water to get rid of any grit or dirt. Chop the fresh mushrooms and set them aside.
  2. Chop the zucchini into small pieces. Heat half the butter or olive oil in a pan, then cook the zucchini with some salt and pepper for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms with the rest of the butter and a little salt for a few minutes, then set aside.
  4. Now prepare the béchamel sauce: first melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour gradually while stirring. Cook this mixture for 2 minutes on medium heat, then add warmed milk little by little. This final mixture should be whisked until it becomes a creamy sauce, then add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. To prepare the final dish, layer tomato sauce, veggies, pasta and béchamel, until all the ingredients have been used up, making sure to finish with a nice layer of béchamel covering the last layer of lasagne. Sprinkle lots of parmigiano cheese on top and bake for 25-30 minutes at 200° C.
  6. Dig in and enjoy!
  7. (optional) One of the few dishes that’s just as good (if not better) the day after, this is great to have as leftovers!

Variations: Use only fresh mushrooms and no dried. Add or substitute spinach, eggplant and/or artichokes for the other vegetables. You can also substitute the tomato sauce with more béchamel or extra cheese like mozzarella or ricotta for a “white” lasagne dish.