Risottos never featured much in my kitchen until recently. Both me and my partner don’t like white wine, which is a bit of staple in a risotto. But once I broke that rule and went for a stock-only base, things started to change. Now they pop up at least once a month and our favourite is a summery courgette risotto with lemon and basil.
The great thing is once you get the hang of making a basic risotto there’s nowhere you can’t go. Plus they are perfect for using up left-overs.
So with nothing much for dinner one night and with not much else in the fridge other the remains of a jumbo butternut squash (it really was huge) I decided to go for a risotto, remembering a delicious pumpkin and pancetta risotto I tried at an Italian restaurant a while ago. The sweetness of the squash marries perfectly with the salty pork.
At the time I could only get hold of Parma ham and it worked in much the same way, but cooked much quicker.
For the risotto: Make your usual risotto base, just how you like it. As a guide I do 200g of arboreo rice to one litre of chicken stock for two people (add wine if you like and not if you don’t). Add a pinch of dried or fresh thyme when you are frying the onion and garlic.
While this is going on pop a tray of chopped (small cubes) butternut squash in the oven at 200 degrees – coat it in olive oil, throw a few cloves of garlic on the tray and some twigs of thyme. Roast until soft – about 20 minutes.
Add half the squash to the pan when you still have 10 minutes to go on the risotto and let it go mushy and meld into the risotto, these gives it a glorious deep orange colour. Once the rice is cooked finish by stirring in freshly grated parmesan and the rest of the squash and stir carefully so the cubes keep their shape.
Serve in deep bowls and top with crispy pieces of Parma ham or pancetta and some grated parmesan. Perfect for a chilly evening.