Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

That crazy Barefoot Contessa has done it again! Ina Garten has never led me astray before and she certainly maintained her delicious reputation when I made her risotto last night.

Before I copy and paste her recipe, here’s what I did differently: I added a cup of asparagus to the roasting squash about 10 minutes in (so it didn’t get TOO roasted) and I used leftover breakfast bacon (which was SUPER hickory-smoked) instead of pancetta. I don’t think my choices necessarily improved upon the original recipe, but I used what I had and it turned out phenomenal. I feel like by adding the asparagus (kale would have been great, too!) it made the risotto a more balanced meal, since we were having it as the main course. This dish paired very well with a big glass of $10 pinot noir and Pitch Perfect.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small-ish butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced*
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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Directions:

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan 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.

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. 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. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

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