Cesare Casella’s Sweet Squash Risotto

        My vegetarian niece came to town for a yoga workshop and that first evening we took her to our favorite Italian restaurant in New York City – Salumeria Rosi (263 Amsterdam) There are so many greens and vegetables on the menu of small dishes, I figured it would be easy to keep her happy. I didn’t count on quite so many dishes being flavored with pig, prosciutto or guanciale or pancetta. That modish bacon twitch.

      A kindly heart in the kitchen offered to do pork-free brussel sprouts and substituted salt for the usual prosciutto. It was so salty we couldn’t eat it. But Dana was madly in love with the squash risotto and came back to stand in line at lunch the next day for an encore.  She asked me to get Cesare’s recipe. I’m not sure she’ll find biscotti in Big Fork, Montana. But here it is.

Risotto di Zucca Serves 6 appetizers

Squash Puree
1 butternut squash: cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out with a spoon
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, fine dice
1 cup Italian rice (Carnaroli)
½ cup white wine
1 ½ quarts simmering, vegetable or chicken stock seasoned
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano,
Squash puree, to taste
Honey to taste

2 tbs. pumpkin seeds, toasted
3 Amaretti Cookies, crushed with your hands

Drizzle oil on cut side of squash and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet cut side down and roast in 250 degree oven until flesh is like a puree and skin is wilted and charred, about one hour. Cool, scoop out flesh and reserve.

Place the olive oil and the onions in pan until softened but not colored, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast, stirring, until the rice smells toasted and is hot to the touch.  Add the wine and cook until evaporated. 

Add simmering stock to cover the rice (about 2-3 cups), and squash puree (1 cup) Simmer, stirring constantly, until the stock has evaporated to the point that the rice appears on the surface. Add more squash (1 cup) and the  simmering stock  to cover the rice (about 1-2 cups) and continue cooking, stirring, until stock has evaporated. Add more stock and the remaining squash puree and cook slightly more if necessary; the total cooking time is about 12-14 minutes. Taste and if necessary season with salt.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese and continue to stir until the cheese has melted.  Taste for seasoning. Drizzle honey as needed. If squash is very sweet you will need less honey.

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and crushed Amaretti cookies. Serve immediately.

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