This butternut squash risotto is absolutely amazing! I've made risotto a couple of times in the past, but hadn't given it a try in a few years. I always think of it as a complicated dish, and while it does involve stirring for quite a while, it really comes together rather easily - much more so than I had remembered! I think the trick is to use a non-stick Dutch oven to cook the risotto and leave it on low heat, so that you can walk away and do prep for a side dish or do some dirty dishes occasionally without disaster.
This particular risotto was not only easy; it was super delicious with lots of layers of flavor. Roasted butternut squash is always one of my favorites, with its caramelized, sweet taste. Combine that with salty pancetta and the je ne sais quoi of saffron and you've got what might just be the perfect risotto. Be warned, though, that this is very rich - you definitely want an acidic side to pair, like this red berry-arugula salad.
Butternut Squah Risotto (adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, original recipe here)
1 butternut squash (3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 pound pancetta, diced
1 cup minced shallots (2 large)
15 ounces arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan covered in foil or parchment and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Add the roasted squash cubes and stir to heat through. Top with grated Parmesan and serve immediately - the risotto will get gummy if it sits around for too long!