When I saw the first leaves turning last week and felt a slight early morning chill in the air, I immediately had a yearning for a comforting risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite recipes to make because it’s so therapeutic. My mother who taught me how to make a pretty good one, never ceases to remind me that you can’t rush a risotto – she loves telling me this because she knows I’m a whirling dervish in my kitchen – always multi-tasking and hating to have to do anything slowly – but as usual – mama knows best! So once I’ve committed myself to a good 1/2 hour of leisurely stirring, I put on some relaxing music and go into a stirring-zone, which is very similar to meditating.
Out of all the risottos I’ve made in the last year, my husband thinks this recipe would definitely be in the top 2 – wow! So now you have his vote of confidence (and don’t forget he’s very spoiled when it comes to food), you may want to give it a try.
I got given a Kabocha squash, which is what prompted this risotto – you can really use whatever winter squash you want – Butternut works well too.
Kabocha Squash Risotto
1/2 large Kabochha squash, but into large cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into large cubes
1tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2tbsp olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 quart (give or take) chicken or vegetable stock
12 fresh sage leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
You can either peel the squash before your cube it or do as I did and remove the skins after roasting, which is a bit messy – so next time I’ll peel before!
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash on a large foil-lined baking sheet and pour over the olive oil. Use you hands to coat each piece. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until browned and soft when you poke a knife in. Remove from oven and put aside. When cool, if you haven’t already, gently remove the skins and cut the squash into cubes.
Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a small skillet and fry the mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and place on a low heat. You want to keep the stock warm for the duration of the cooking of the risotto – so make sure that heat is low enough that it won’t simmer or boil.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep skillet (I love my 360 skillet,) and add the onion. Fry gently until translucent then stir in the rice. Add the wine and stir on a low heat until it’s absorbed.
Now comes the stirring bit. You’ll need to add a ladle of stock and gently stir over a low-medium heat until its completely absorbed – then add the next ladle. Keep on going for about 20 minutes or until the rice has fully expanded and has a nice chewy texture. The texture of the rice is what makes a risotto great or mediocre, so make sure that it’s just past al dente – you obviously want it to be soft and chewy, but not overcooked into a mush.
When it’s ready, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Carefully combine the squash and mushrooms into the risotto – I say carefully because you want the squash to keep its shape and not get mushy.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on a high heat and add about 6 sage leaves. Fry for about 1 minute on either side and then drain them on a paper towel.
Finely chop the remaining sage leaves.
Make sure your serving bowls are warm. Spoon the risotto into each bowl and top with the crumbled-up friend sage leaves and the freshly chopped sage.