Saffron Butternut Squash Risotto & Cooking with Friends

Food can be categorized in many ways … by country of origin, by method of preparation, by meal.  One way I think of food is by the occasion the way it is served … is this a backyard bash? Or a dinner party where there is no time for last minute preparations?  Or a meal brought to a friend in need?  Or one of the best, a casual dinner with close friends, you know, the kind that stops by unannounced with a bottle of wine, and you don’t care that the house is mess?  Those sorts of friends are the most precious.

And, for me, a great dish to make with friends is risotto.  It is generally a cheap meal, and easy to put together. Risotto is not a dish to be rushed so it is best with friends who you can talk to all night and who you can take turns slowly stirring the rice and broth.  On Saturday night, I made an amazing risotto with butternut squash and a conversation with a very good friend. The pictures do not do it justice; the saffron provides a lovely golden color that compliments the bright yellow squash.

Butternut Squash Risotto

This recipe was inspired by two sources – a cooking club that I was a member of years ago where we first made risotto and a recipe from Ina Garten.

  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock  or broth
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large minced shallots
  • 2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1  – 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Toss it with the olive, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender.

Heat the stock/broth; leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and sauté 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.  Add the roasted squash cubes and parmesan cheese.   Mix well and serve.

Of course, the pancetta can be omitted and vegetable broth substituted for a vegetarian dish, or you could add shrimp for a more substantial dish.

Enjoy … with friends!

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About cookbooksandceilithe

For the past two years, I've been working more than full-time while getting my MBA. Now, that graduation has come and gone, I want to indulge in two of passions - cooking and entertaining.
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