COMFORT FOOD ITALIAN STYLE!
If you're in the states, chances are pretty good that you've experienced some snow this winter. Many of you might have experienced snow to the extreme, and there have been some pretty frigid temperatures to go along with that snow. Here in Umbria it's been pretty darn cold, with temps dipping into the teens a couple of times, and it's not unusual for us to dip below freezing. All in all our winter hasn't been as rough as it is in other parts of the world, but still the gray gloomy days of winter make me want to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.
We've also been enjoying some good ole comfort food - a big pot of chili, macaroni and cheese, a nice pork roast and potatoes in the oven to warm not only the soul but also the kitchen - and make the house smell great in the process. Today we had some comfort food Italian style: risotto. Risotto at it's best is creamy and filling, and this recipe is also the perfect one pot meal. Add a salad if you like, and lunch is served!
Risotto with Pancetta and Pumpkin
1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta, cut into ¼” strips
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb pumpkin (or butternut squash) cut into 1 ½” by ¼” sticks
8 sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
¾ cup white wine
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 ½ cups arborio rice
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a medium bowl. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the fat in the skillet. Add the pumpkin and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sage, salt and pepper, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute longer. Transfer the pumpkin to the bowl with the pancetta. (Make ahead tip: The pancetta and pumpkin can be refrigerated overnight. Return to room temperature before using.)
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue adding the stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring constantly until it is nearly absorbed before adding more. The risotto is done when the rice is just tender but still has a bit of a 'bite' and the liquid is creamy, about 20 minutes.
Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the 1/2 cup of Parmesan into the risotto. Gently fold in the pumpkin and pancetta. Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.
Next time I'll probably try substituting sausage for the pancetta, just to compare, but this version was delicious - and very comforting.