I had an epiphany last week. I love cooking – no, I live for cooking. Any time I’m talking about food, cooking or eating, I’m a happy girl. Even on weeknights, I’ll admit, when often I feel crunched for time and my kitchen looks like a hurricane just came by when all is said and done.
But nothing compares to the joy I feel when I have the luxury of cooking on a weekend. I love all cooking. But weekend cooking, I adore.
Weekend cooking was made for braising, slow roasting, baking, soup making – making foods with a whole lot of love. And conversely, the food I most love to cook. The food that I get to make wholeheartedly and serve to the people I love. And the food that requires a glass of wine (or two) to be consumed while cooking it.
So last week, in the midst of plenty of weeknight dinners I whipped up, which were delicious and simple no doubt, I couldn’t stop day dreaming about the Saturday night meal I had planned. See my dear Cole, who is an amazing, gracious test taster of anything I’m making, had never had risotto. In his entire life. The moment I heard these words, I knew exactly what our Saturday night had in store.
Risotto is not only an amazing dish to eat, but it’s one of my favorite things to cook when time allows. The common misconception is that risotto is difficult, which is why so many-a-Chopped episode you’ll hear the judges gasp, “They’re making risotto?! In 20 minutes?!” Because risotto is definitely not hard. Risotto is, however, a labor of love. Once you begin the process, don’t plan to leave your stove top until it’s complete.
For Cole’s first risotto experience, I had to make a long-time family favorite. The dish that actually made me turn into a butternut squash lover as a kid. Butternut Squash Risotto with crisp pancetta. Creamy, rich, decadent with salty pancetta, nutty Parmesan and a deep complexity from chicken broth and wine. Simple flavor, simple ingredients. It’s a real treat, my friends.
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 oz. pancetta, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2 cubes – I usually buy these pre-chopped from the store! Best. Shortcut. Ever.
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Simmer broth and wine in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and cover to keep hot. Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add pancetta and saute until cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Add squash and onion. Stir to coat. Add the rice and saute for 1 minute.
Add two cups of broth mixture. Adjust the heat so liquid bubbles gently. Stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time, simmering until liquid is absorbed before each addition and stirring often, about 20 minutes. Mix butter and Parmesan into risotto. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and top with extra grated Parmesan.