If ever asked, I would be hard-pressed to say what my very best recipe is, but this would be one of the handful that would leap to mind. In our foodie-obsessed culture it sometimes seems that the more retro or the more avant-garde a dish is, the more respect it commands. For me, the idea of a best recipe is one that is consistent, easy to remember, uses a handful of staple ingredients, and can be whipped together for weeknight dinner or easy weekend meals.
That’s exactly what risotto is for me. I’ve been making versions of this dish for about twenty years, adding flourishes to the basic recipe. This recipe is a best friend–it never lets me down, and picks me up when I need comfort. It’s hearty, savory, and there’s a zen to the process of making it.
One of our household favorites is pumpkin or butternut risotto. They both use the same basic recipe and take the same amount of time to make, but pumpkin from a can save a few prep steps and if you’re like us, there’s usually some in the pantry or freezer. This is a perfect fall recipe that can be made vegan or not, depending on your choice of stock and cheese.
Risotto with Butternut Squash or Pumpkin (adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)
5 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter, or a combinations of both (or sub some schmaltz for butter if you have it)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes or 1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
- Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat and maintain a simmer.
- Heat the oil and/or butter in a large, heavy saucepan on medium heat and saute the onion for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent but not browned.
- Add the rice and stir for one minute to thoroughly coat the rice with oil, taking care not to break the grains.
- Add the wine and stir constantly until it is absorbed.
- If using squash, add the cubes followed by 1/2 cup of stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
- Ladle in the simmering chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed. It should take about 18 to 20 minutes to cook the rice. Reduce the stock added toward the end and increase the frequency, tasting for the point where the rice is tender but al dente.
- If using pumpkin puree, add the puree at the halfway point.
- Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
If you are vegan, this recipe is still delicious without the cheese, but will likely need a bit more salt to taste.
Either version is really lovely with a bit of sage or herbes de Provence, as well.