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Posts Tagged ‘Rice’


October 31, 2009

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Risotto

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butternut squash risotto Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Risotto

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Risotto

A well prepared Risotto is the most intense and flavorful dish you may ever eat.

To most of my friends their Italian cooking revolves around various Parmigiana, Francese and Marsala dishes. These popular dishes are crowd pleasers but how about something new and different?

This has lead me to a traditional Italian dish that dates back to the Late Middle Ages….. RISOTTO.

Rice (riso) is usually not commonly associated to Italian cooking but that could not be further from the truth. Italy is the leading producer of short-grain rice in Europe. The majority of the rice is grown in the famous Po valley. In the Italian regions of Lomardy, Piedmonte and Veneto, risotto is a more common first course than pasta for dinner.

Is Risotto difficult to make?

Risotto is easy to make but the two main secrets is patience and stirring, lot’s of stirring. A great red wine, say a Barolo, will help you with the patience part and so will listening to Bocelli in the background. Classic risotto begins by cooking a combination of three diced vegetables like onion/shallot, celery, carrot or garlic. This combination in Italy is called soffritto. Cook these vegetables till soft but do not brown them.

Next you stir in the unwashed rice (don’t worry they are not dirty) into the soffritto and LIGHTLY cook until the rice is well coated with the oil,butter and soffritto mixture. Once again DO NOT BROWN THE RICE OR VEGETABLES.

Once everything is well coated and hot you can add the wine and broth. The wine should be at room temperature and the broth must be very warm in order for the rice to fully absorb the flavor and to create the signature creamy sauce. The broth will be added at 1/2 cup increments (this is where all the stirring begins) saving a 1/2 cup of broth after you remove the risotto from the heat. Once off the heat you add the remaining broth and cheese. This will ensure the rice will have a velvety, smooth and slightly fluid character. Serve risotto as soon as it is finished cooking.  Once you start cooking risotto you can not leave it unattended. It must be constantly watched over. That’s basically it.

I would recommend picking up the cookbook, “Risotto Risotti” by Judith Barrett from Macmillan (ISBN 0-02-860357-5). This book is easy to understand and has over 100 delicious recipes. It is the cornerstone to my cooking.

Where do you buy RISOTTO RICE on Staten Island?

I purchase my rice from local Italian Salumeria’s like A & C on Manor Road or from Met Food Supermarket on Hylan or Victory Boulevard. I have used the Colavita brand and it’s perfect.The quality of the rice does make a difference. Try to get imported Italian superfino Arborio rice. This is the most common risotto rice you will fine. The texture and creamy quality of this rice is extraordinary. I’m sure you can fine risotto rice in many supermarkets but most are usually from Texas or California.

A well prepared risotto is the most rich and flavorful dish you may ever eat. Risotto does require gentle care and some time to prepare but don’t shy away from it. You can do this with a little patience. The preparation of risotto is an expression of love. Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make and most rewarding. I find that risotto is very versatile and each variation of the dish is synonymous with the regions of Italy. From the classic Risotto alla Milanese to Risi e Bisi (rice and peas) of Veneto.

Just like any fine works of art or music, great recipes transcend time and tell a story about a culture.

What follows is a wonderful Autumn risotto dish. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know how it comes out or if you have any questions.

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Risotto

(Risotto alla Zucca)

Serves 4-6


4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 cups winter squash ( butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc…) peeled, seeded and diced

3/4 cup finely chopped oinion

1 3/4 cups of Arborio rice

1/2 cup Dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or Orvieto)

6 cups vegetable broth, simmering

1 fresh vanilla bean

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 Tbsp finely chopped sage

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Open the wine and keep it at room temperature and pour the vegetable broth into a pot under medium low heat and simmer. Slice the vanilla bean to expose the beans. Scrap out the beans with a teaspoon and add it to the broth. Also added the vanilla been shell to the broth.

Slowly melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add squash and onion (this is the soffritto). Saute gently for 5 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent. DO NOT BROWN.

Add the unwashed rice and cook for about 6 – 8 minutes stirring constantly until the rice looks opaque. DO NOT BROWN RICE OR VEGETABLES. Pour in the wine and simmer until it’s all evaporated.

Remove the vanilla bean shells. Now carefully add 1/2 cup of broth at a time. Add each 1/2 cup until the prior 1/2 cup has been absorbed by the rice. STIR CONSTANTLY! This should take about 20 to 30 minutes. Remember to save a 1/2 cup for later. The aroma at this point is absolutely intoxicating. The rice should begin to look creamy and wavy, not stiff, fluffy, dry or soupy.

Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, sage, parsley and the remaining 1/2 cup of broth. Let the risotto stand for a minute or two. Serve immediately with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table. My mouth is watering and my stomach is growling. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Thanks for reading.

 Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Risotto