Luckily, the CSA newsletter featured a delightful-sounding recipe for saffron risotto with butternut squash. Although I have been unsuccessful in finding saffron threads so far, I forged ahead with this yummy and seasonal Italian comfort food.
Risotto is one of my favorite foods - it's delicious when you first make it and even better a day or two later because it keeps soaking up the flavors of whatever you've cooked with it. It's also incredibly filling and a great thing to make for a crowd of people. It goes well with many different additions, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, peas, pesto, etc. As long as you follow the rules-- sautee the rice first, use plenty of onions, don't skimp on the butter, use good stock, and stir, stir, stir--you really can't go wrong!
Below is an adapated recipe that I created using the Joy of Cooking's basic risotto recipe (risotto in bianco) with some additions of my own. You can roast the squash ahead of time if you like, it will keep for several days. I added some fresh herbs which add a lovely flavor that sets off the rich, gooey rice and the sweet roasted squash really nicely.
Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash
* One butternut squash (2 lbs), peeled, de-seeded, and cut into 3/4" cubes
* One large onion, chopped
* 2 Tbps olive oil or butter
* 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 2 cups arborio rice (risotto)
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
* 2 tsps fresh Italian parsley, chopped
* 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cubed squash with the olive oil, salt and pepper and turn out onto a heavy baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until soft, turning once, half-way through. Remove and set aside to cool.
2. Heat the stock in a saucepan (you'll want to position this right behind whatever burner you plan to use for the risotto pan since you're going to be ladling stock into the pan continuously during the cooking process.) Cover the stock and leave it on low at a simmer (it will need to stay hot the entire time you're cooking the risotto.)
3. In a large, heavy bottomed pan (there are special risotto pans but although nice, they're not necessary) melt the butter and cook the onion on medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Sautee the rice for 2-3 minutes until the rice becomes chalky and you can see a white dot in the center of each grain. Then add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it's been absorbed.
5. Now the fun begins (by the end of this, your arm will be ready to fall off!) Add one cup of the hot stock to the pan and stir until it has all been absorbed by the rice (if you don't stir and cook until the liquid is absorbed with each addition, the rice will get very gummy).
6. Continue to add stock, one cup at a time, stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed the liquid and starts to seem dry before adding more stock. Once you've added 6 cups of the stock, you should start adding 1/2 cup at a time. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through but still a little al dente, about 30 minutes total (you may not end up using all of the stock but it should be pretty close -- if you run out of stock, you can substitute hot water towards the end.)
7. Turn off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes, chopped herbs, and parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper, mix well and serve.
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