Risotto alla Zucca from Lombardy
Tonight I went to my friend Isabel’s house for dinner and she made me a delicious plate of risotto with squash:
This is true comfort food, straight from the cool (relatively) climes of Lombardy in the North of Italy, and with its deep, warm colour and slightly spicy sweetness it is a good winter warmer and a true December classic in my kitchen – it helps that it is quick and easy to make too!
Many people are afraid of making risotto, convinced that it will come out as a hard, indigestible lump, or will be sloppy and undercooked… it is actually very simple, and requires just a little patience and preferably some company in the kitchen. We had each other plus our two crazy dogs running around to keep us on our toes!
You will need (serves 2):
200 grams of arborio rice
200 grams of pumpkin, peeled and cubed
half an onion, peeled and finely chopped
one small celery stalk finely chopped
One small fresh red chilli pepper, finely chopped
A knob of butter
A pint of vegetable stock
One glass of dry white wine
A generous helping of freshly grated Grano Padano (Parmesan is also fine)
Start by gently frying the onion, celery and chilli in the butter until the onions begin to go translucent. Then, add the rice and stir until each grain is coated with butter.
At this point you can add the cubed squash as well as the glass of dry white wine. As the risotto cooks it is essential to keep stirring to stop the rice from sticking, and keep adding the vegetable stock one ladel at a time until it is fully absorbed.
By the time you have used all of the stock, the risotto should technically have cooked, but I often find I have to add a glass or so of water to get the consistency right… how can you tell? Well, when you shake the pan you should see an ondata, or gentle wave, and the rice should be tender. Please note DO NOT add extra stock or the result will be salty.
At this point you can leave the risotto to “rest” for five minutes before adding in the cheese, folding it in so that it melts and becomes filante – that’s stretchy to you and me, but sounds so much classier somehow!
Now your risotto is ready to be served – sprinkling of parsley optional… glass of full bodied red wine obligatory!