Today I am giving you a break from my Italy trip journal and I am sharing one of my favorite Fall dish: Risotto di zucca con fonduta di Fontina (Butternut squash risotto with Fontina cheese sauce).
It ‘s a classic Italian pumpkin risotto in which I substituted the pumpkin with butternut squash. Also, while in a typical risotto recipe you add butter at the end to “mantecare” (final step to make it creamy), I added Fontina cheese sauce instead.
I did not inherited this recipe, I don’t remember my mother ever using pumpkin in a recipe. My mom was from Naples and the Risotto alla zucca (pumpkin risotto) is typical of Northern Italy so, although she wasn’t opposed to recipes out of her comfort zone, zucca was not in her repertoire. I honestly don’t particularly enjoy the pumpkin’s taste myself; I find it too sweet however, substituting pumpkin with butternut squash, things have changed. I love its milder and nuttier flavor. My family has come to love it too, especially my daughter-in-law whom particularly enjoys my butternut squash ravioli.
In a previous post I told you that risotto is one of my favorite dish to prepare and I have shared the recipe of my Shrimp Risotto. I also explained that risotto is a way of preparing riso (rice) rather than a recipe and I have mentioned that the variety of rice you use will affect the recipe. The best rice for risotto is the Vialone Nano, which belongs to the semifino variety. This variety has medium long grains and it has a good ability to release the starch that ensures the creaminess of the risotto. Carnaroli and Arborio, both in the ultrafino variety, are good alternatives.
One of my brother’s client in Novara – one of the main area of rice production in Italy – asked me to test a Vialone Nano of his production. The name is ECORÌ and it is an eco-friendly rice.
I tried the rice and I liked it; it cooked nicely and the final product was very creamy. The problem is that I doubt I will find this rice in my area so: “dear friend at ECORÌ, I would love a case of rice!”
Risotto alla zucca con fonduta di Fontina
Recipe for 4 people
For the Risotto
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
2 cups rice – Vialone Nano, Carnaroli or Arborio
1 butternut squash peeled seeded and cubed (about 1-1/2 pound)
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups vegetable broth
For the Fonduta
2 oz. Fontina cheese cubed
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
First prepare the fonduta. While you are preparing the fonduta, bring 6 cups of vegetable broth to boil and keep it hot; you will use it for the risotto.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over the low heat, and whisk in the flour until well blended. Slowly add the milk, whisking until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Add the Fontina, the Parmigiano- Reggiano, and the nutmeg and stir to combine. The result has to be a smooth, silky, and slightly thick sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper, cover the sauce with plastic wrap and set aside.
Preparing the risotto.
- In a heavy-bottom pan, heat the oil and half butter with the onion and the shallot.
- Once the onion has softened add the butternut squash, salt, and pepper and cook until the squash until you are to break down with a fork.
- Move the chunky purée around the sides of the pan to create a large hot spot in the middle. Add the remaining butter and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the bits of squash.
- Add the rice to the pan and toss to coat with the butter.
- When the rice is translucent, add the wine and stir until the wine evaporates. At the same time start incorporating the hot broth into the rice. Start adding 1/2 cup of hot broth at the time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at the time, stirring constantly.
- Taste the rice for texture and seasoning; It should be al dente, tender but not mushy.
- When the rice is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the fonduta until it is all blended with the risotto. Add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and give it one more stir.
- Plate into individual bowls, top with Parmigiano and garnish with fried sage leaves (oops, I burned my sage, so I used a fresh leaf instead!).
My perfect Risotto: warm, creamy, flavorful and delicious. It would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving dinner.
Which one is your favorite Fall recipe?
Related post: If it’s Friday . . . it’s Pesce!