Pumpkin risotto is such a deliciously comforting meal! This version is based on traditional Italian recipes and is easy to make, filling, but not overly heavy. It's a perfect plate of fall goodness.
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Many years ago, I made some baked pumpkin arancini which used pumpkin risotto as the base, but for whatever reason I then got out of the habit of making either. That is until we were in Bologna last year.
When we visited a balsamic vinegar producer (see more in my food in Bologna post), one of their suggestions for one of the vinegars was on top of pumpkin risotto. I instantly started imagining the delicious combination and could hardly wait until fall to try it.
To make the anticipation even worse, I then didn't manage to fit in sharing this recipe last year in the end, so have been holding on to this until it was just about OK to talk pumpkin again. Yes, I admit, I've been hiding this delicious dish from you.
But now it's safe to talk pumpkin again, I should add you need to have this high on your pumpkin cooking list!
What kind of pumpkin is best?
As I mentioned when I shared my pumpkin ravioli, in Italy, squash and pumpkin are known as "zucca". Exactly what zucca refers to can vary in different areas, from what I understand, plus there are longer names, in the same way as we use butternut squash or acorn squash in English to refer to the different varieties.
What seems to be the traditional squash/pumpkin for pumpkin risotto, however, is a bit lighter and sweeter than what we'd call "pumpkin" in the US. Some suggest butternut squash is closer in flavor, but it is that bit heavier.
I found and used a red kabocha squash, which is both on the sweeter side but not quite as dense as butternut. It made a truly delicious risotto. If you can't find red kabocha (or any other kabocha), then red kuri, butternut, buttercup squash or a pie pumpkin would also work as alternatives.
What rice should you use in risotto?
Risotto is traditionally made with arborio or carnaroli rice, as well as some other regional rice varieties. Arborio is the most common and easily found in most supermarkets, though many experts would argue carnaroli is better, if you can find it.
These (as well as some other Italian rice varieties) are short grain which gives the right texture for risotto. You get that great balance of slightly chewy and not too starchy.
In terms of cheese, it really needs to be parmesan to be authentically Italian in flavor. Plus the slight saltiness is a great contrast to the sweeter squash. The cheese adds creaminess as well.
Then the final flourish, as suggested by the balsamic vinegar producer, is a splash of aged balsamic vinegar. It really is the perfect pairing - the slight tartness cuts through the richness of the dish and the flavors so so well.
This pumpkin risotto is really the perfect fall meal. Comforting, easy to eat and with smooth, warming flavors. I'd definitely recommend you make some soon!
Try these other risotto recipes:
- Butternut squash risotto with chicken and arugula
- Lemon risotto with asparagus and zucchini
- Saffron risotto bright with saffron color and flavor
- Chestnut risotto with lovely nutty bites of chestnut mixed through
- Plus get more comforting fall recipes in the archives.
- 12 oz pumpkin (peeled & de-seeded weight), or red kuri/butternut/honeynut squash
- 1 onion (small/med)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- 3 cups light stock (vegetable or chicken if you don't need it to be vegetarian)
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan lightly packed, approx
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar approx, to serve
- Peel and de-seed the pumpkin/squash, if not already prepared. Cut into a relatively small dice. Peel and dice the onion and garlic.
- Warm the oil and butter in a medium pan over a medium heat then add the onion. Cook for around 5 minutes until the onion softens, but make sure it doesn't brown (reduce heat or add a little more butter, if needed).
- Add the garlic and pumpkin/squash and cook a few more minutes until it all softens (around another 5, but depends on the kind of squash/pumpkin and size of pieces). Often this works best by covering the pan with a lid to let the vegetables sweat. Mash the pumpkin/squash so that it's a rough puree.
- Add the rice and cook for a minute or two then add enough stock to cover the rice. Keep adding a little more stock (around ½ to 1 cup at a time) as the previous amount is absorbed, stirring now and then so that it doesn't stick. Typically, it doesn't need stirred much to start but more towards the end.
- Once the rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed, stir through the parmesan, nutmeg and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve topped with a drizzle of aged balsamic and a few shaves of parmesan.
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