One morning in Tuscany, we took a day trip into the hills above Florence to a renowned private vineyard, where we met a member of the Contini Bonacossi Noble Family (owners of the art work in the eponymous private gallery at the Uffizi). After touring the vineyards, olive tree orchards, wine cellars and olive oil refinery of the Tenuta di Capezzana Estate, we had the the pleasure of joining their private chef to prepare a vegetarian version of a traditional Tuscan meal, and later enjoyed lunch with the family.
Along with learning how to make homemade tapenade, tiramisu and fresh tagliatelle, we first made this risotto with the Italian pumpkin “zucca gialla.” The flavor of this Italian pumpkin is not like the traditional pumpkin found closer to home but more like some of the smaller squashes, specifically acorn, that we find locally. Earlier this week we decided to try and recreate this dish and upon tasting the risotto we were immediately taken back to that idyllic fall day in Tuscany.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, julienned
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs Acorn (or Butternut) Squash
2 cups Arborio (Italian) rice
1 cup dry, white wine (optional, but really enhances the flavor)
Approx 8 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leafed Italian parsley (to garnish)
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
Clean, peel, seed and cut the squash into cubes the squash. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove, mash slightly with a fork, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick pan add the butter over medium heat (Note: if using a traditional pan you may need to double the amount of butter to prevent sticking). When the butter is melted, add the leeks, shallots and garlic. Cook for approx. 5 minutes or until leeks are translucent. Add the rice and toss to coat. Increase the temperature of the stove a bit and add in the white wine. Let reduce and continue adding one ladle of water at a time. (You will add the water, let it cook the rice and reduce and then add the next ladle full of water). Continue cooking until the rice is al dente.
Add in the squash and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Finally, turn off the heat and stir in the parmigiano reggiano.
Transfer to a bowl and garnish with parsley before serving. This dish is best when served immediately. Our Italian chef-instructor impressed upon us that risotto should be smooth, creamy and spread out on to the plate or bowl when served. You do not want the risotto to be too stiff or it will taste gummy.
Note: If you are to reheat this dish you will need to add water to thin it out a bit. I recommend warming the water on the stove before adding in the risotto and then stirring gently until just incorporated. You may also need to add a bit of salt to compensate for the additional water.