Pumpkin Risotto – Another Flavor of Fall

It sure has gotten cold recently here in Chicago.  Time for a hearty warm dish which reflects the autumn season upon us: pumpkin risotto.  Yes, pumpkin risotto.  The great pumpkin’s time is now (just ask Linus).  My unofficial pumpkin season starts in late September and ends at Thanksgiving.  That Thanksgiving pumpkin pie is usually the last pumpkin dish I’ll make for almost a year.  Right now we’ve got pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin bread, etc., so get your fill during this brief fall window!   

I always have some risotto in the pantry for a quick weeknight dinner.  Whenever I forget to take meat out of the freezer for dinner during the fall and winter I turn it into a risotto night.  Cheryl likes this but I don’t think she knows why it is such a fall/winter staple (mainly because your husband forgets things).  While this pumpkin risotto is not really a quick throw-together one, with some planning and minimal prep work you can do this pretty easily for a weeknight dinner.

This recipe calls for roasting the pumpkin and making a pumpkin puree.  So, for a quick weeknight dinner be sure to roast your pumpkin and puree it ahead of time.  It will keep in the refrigerator and be ready to go when you want to.  Blending in the puree to the risotto turns out really well and I think you get a lot more pumpkin flavor in the risotto than by just dicing and adding like some recipes call for.  And no, it does not taste like pumpkin pie, because it does not have pumpkin pie spices in it other than some nutmeg.  Be careful with the nutmeg though.  It’s a very strong spice which can easily overpower everything else if you go too far.  Like saffron, too much will ruin it and it can be a fine line between extremely flavorful and inedible.  It’s best to add nutmeg in small increments and taste before adding more.  Once the puree is mixed you can set it aside until you need it, either later in the day or in a couple of days.  This will easily become a popular fall dish in your home!

Pumpkin Risotto (makes 4 dinner servings)

  • 1 small pumpkin (around 2-3 lbs)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • ½ C white wine
  • 2 medium shallots diced
  • ½ C diced pancetta
  • 2 C Arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 6 C stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • ½ C grated parmesan cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.  Cut the top off the pumpkin and clean out the inside.  Carve the pumpkin up into smaller 2” pieces and place skin side up on a parchment paper lined baking pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 75-90 minutes until soft.

Scrape soft pumpkin flesh into a food processor and puree.  Mix in some salt and the nutmeg.  Set aside.  You should have about 1 ½ – 2 C of puree.  [Side Roam: Don’t worry if all they have at the store are larger pumpkins.  Just puree the whole thing, you’ll then have extra for adding to pancakes, waffles, bread, etc.]

In a sauce pot heat up your stock to a simmer.

In a large sauté pan heat the oil and 2 Tbs butter over medium-high heat.  When butter has melted add the shallots and pancetta.  Saute for 5 minutes or until shallots are soft.

Next, mix in the rice.  Cook until grains become translucent.

Add 1 C of stock and stir until the liquid is soaked up.  Add another C and do the same.  After adding the third C of stock, blend in 1 C of the pumpkin puree.  Resume adding stock one C at a time until your risotto is tender (but not mushy).

When risotto is cooked and there’s still some liquid left, stir in the cheese and the last Tbs of butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If it’s not creamy enough add a little bit of water and stir.

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