Roast Butternut Squash & Sage risotto

a tale of two textures

roast squash and sage risotto

I’m slightly in awe of the schizoid nature of pumpkins and butternut squash and how they show their sweet and savoury personas off. Here we also have two states of being: the grated pumpkin becomes creamy with the rice and the roast pumpkin cubes remain firmer and add a caramelised crunch.  

In Autumn pumpkins are plentiful and cheap so no excuse not to buy one, cut it in half and slow roast it before deciding what to do with the flesh.  This intensifies the flavour plus makes it easier to manage cutting the flesh.  The flesh becomes seductively silky when pureed  whether  in a sweet pumpkin pie (I make mine with crushed coriander seeds and lemon zest) or a warming soup (perhaps a classic with orange version or a Thai inspired lemongrass, coconut and ginger number).

This refreshing bright and light risotto is a celebration of Autumn and the seasons turning and a perfect example of a main course where you just dont notice there is no meat. If you are in a rush you can skip the roast cubed pumpkin addition  but it does elevate the dish. 

You Are What You Eat

Pumpkin is a Beta Carotene powerhouse. Beta Carotene is a pigment the body converts into vitamin A. It is a powerful antioxidant that has been celebrated for its possible ability to fight cancer. It’s thought to play a role protecting cells, boosting the immune system, and helping to keep the reproductive system healthy. However don’t overdo it – I knew somebody who went on an obsessive carrot based diet and became the colour of a bad spray tan job. Sage and in particular sage tea has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Sage contains the anti inflammatory phenolic acid, also found in Rosemary “rosmarinic acid” and among its many properties is said to enhance memory.  I have to say I’ve always found Sage tea a tad strong but being on the weaker end of the short term memory spectrum I probably should drink a cup every morning! 

Ingredients for Four People

30g butter (unt)

2 tbsp olive oil (ulei de masline)

300g fresh pumpkin (dovleac)

100g roast pumpkin cubed  (roast for 30-40 minutes at 180C . pre-cube the pumpkin so each cube is caramelised)
1 onion finely chopped  (dovleac tocat)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (usturoi)

leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, 4-6 leaves of fresh sage (cimbru si salvie proaspat)

900ml – 1litre chicken or vegetable stock if serving for vegetarians (zeama de pui sau legume)

250g risotto rice like Carnaroli or Arborio although faced with unavailability in Bucharest I have successfully made with normal short grain pudding rice (orez cu bob rotund)

125ml dry vermouth /white wine (Vin alb sau Vermouth)

110g parmesan or pecorino, finely grated  (parmezan)
How To

butternut squash
1. Grate the pumpkin/ Butternut Squash as pictured above as you would grate carrots
2. Heat the olive oil and a good knob of butter in a deep, heavy-based frying pan or saute pan. Gently fry the onion until softened. Add the rice and stir for about a minute until the grains are coated with the oil and butter. Pour in the wine/martini/ vermouth and stir continuously until it has been absorbed by the rice.
3. Add the grated pumpkin.  Add a good ladle of hot stock and the herbs, season well with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down so the stock is simmering gently. Keep adding ladles of stock as it cooks into the rice and cooks the pumpkin, stirring and moving the rice around in the pan. After about 15-20 minutes the rice should be soft but still have a bit of bite left in it. The texture of the risotto should be thick and creamy. Add extra stock if necessary. This is definitely time to pour yourself a glass of wine and stare hypnotically into the risotto as you stir.
4. Taste a grain to see if it is done by biting it and then looking at it to see if it is all cooked through
5. Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir the roast pumpkin cubes into the risotto with the parmesan, the remaining butter and seasoning to taste. Let the risotto relax. Do not over stir it at this point. This is an important stage.
6. Quickly fry the fresh sage leaves in butter. The sage leaves do burn easily and can be a little greasy so try and just almost dry fry them just so they release more flavours.  Somehow the butter seems to take away the slight bitterness sage can exhibit.
7. Divide into plates or bowls and scatter the sage leaves over the risotto.

pumpkin-sage-risotto finished

Roast Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto
Serves 4
A light and refreshing vegetarian main course
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. for Four People
  2. 30g butter (unt)
  3. 2 tbsp olive oil (ulei de masline)
  4. 300g fresh pumpkin (dovleac)
  5. 100g roast pumpkin cubed (roast for 30-40 minutes at 180C . pre-cube the pumpkin so each cube is caramelised)
  6. 1 onion finely chopped (dovleac tocat)
  7. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (usturoi)
  8. leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, 4-6 leaves of fresh sage (cimbru si salvie proaspat)
  9. 900ml – 1litre chicken or vegetable stock if serving for vegetarians (zeama de pui sau legume)
  10. 250g risotto rice like Carnaroli or Arborio although faced with unavailability in Bucharest I have successfully made with normal short grain pudding rice (orez cu bob rotund)
  11. 125ml dry vermouth /white wine (Vin alb sau Vermouth)
  12. 110g parmesan or pecorino, finely grated (parmezan)
Instructions
  1. Grate the pumpkin/ Butternut Squash as pictured above as you would grate carrots
  2. Heat the olive oil and a good knob of butter in a deep, heavy-based frying pan or saute pan. Gently fry the onion until softened. Add the rice and stir for about a minute until the grains are coated with the oil and butter. Pour in the wine/martini/ vermouth and stir continuously until it has been absorbed by the rice.
  3. Add the grated pumpkin. Add a good ladle of hot stock and the herbs, season well with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down so the stock is simmering gently. Keep adding ladles of stock as it cooks into the rice and cooks the pumpkin, stirring and moving the rice around in the pan. After about 15-20 minutes the rice should be soft but still have a bit of bite left in it. The texture of the risotto should be thick and creamy. Add extra stock if necessary. This is definitely time to pour yourself a glass of wine and stare hypnotically into the risotto as you stir.
  4. Taste a grain to see if it is done by biting it and then looking at it to see if it is all cooked through
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir the roast pumpkin cubes into the risotto with the parmesan, the remaining butter and seasoning to taste. Let the risotto relax. Do not over stir it at this point. This is an important stage.
  6. Quickly fry the fresh sage leaves in butter. The sage leaves do burn easily and can be a little greasy so try and just almost dry fry them just so they release more flavours. Somehow the butter seems to take away the slight bitterness sage can exhibit.
  7. Divide into plates or bowls and scatter the sage leaves over the risotto.
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Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Site
    June 15, 2016

    A fantastic recipe, although I cheated by only dicing the squash used for decoration while roasting the remainder whole. Once cooled, the skin comes off easily so you can simply mash it and add to the risotto.

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