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Brown Butter Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

Roast Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage

Recipe and photos by Emilie Pullar


A risotto for me is like an old friend – the kind of friend that even if you haven’t seen them in a while it’s like no time has gone by. It’s familiar and comfortable, a hug in creamy rice form, if you will. 

I think a lot of unnecessary fuss is made over the amount of time and energy it takes to make a risotto. It should only take about 20 minutes of stirring. Try and enjoy that time as a little kitchen meditation. This might sound strange to some people, but for me coming home after a long day at work and standing in front of a frying pan, stirring, with a glass of wine in hand is true relaxation. 

A few tips for making this risotto:

  • Roasting the pumpkin first gives it a wonderful depth of flavor. You want to make sure the edges are slightly charred, which sweetens and caramelizes the pumpkin. Crown pumpkin is what I like to use here in New Zealand, but butternut squash works just as well.
  • I think chicken stock gives the best flavor here but feel free to use vegetable stock.
  • In my opinion, a risotto should be al dente, meaning the rice should still have a slight bite to it. To achieve this, keep in mind that the rice will keep soaking up the liquid after you take it off the heat so don’t let that last ladle of stock absorb fully.
  • Towards the end, I like to fry some sage leaves in butter until crisp which adds a beautiful flavor note and impressive garnish. If some of the browned butter from the sage leaves happens to accidentally get drizzled on the risotto when serving, then you’ve just done yourself a big favor.

Roast Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage

Serves 4

Prep time: 35 Minutes
Cook time: 30 Minutes

Special Equipment

12-inch frying pan (although any big pan or pot will work)
kitchen scale

Ingredients

For roasting the pumpkin:
4-5 cups (650 grams) pumpkin, cut into bite-size cubes (weighed after peeling)
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the risotto:
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 more tablespoons for finishing the risotto
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1¾ cups (370 grams) Arborio rice 
¾ cup (175 milliliters) dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
5 cups (1.25 liters) chicken stock 
¾ cup (70 grams) finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the fried sage leaves:
5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter for frying sage 
15 fresh sage leaves

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉ (180℃).

2. Place the chopped pumpkin onto a baking tray and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Use your hands or a spoon to make sure they are all coated. Sprinkle with salt and roast for around 30 minutes until the edges are slightly charred. Set aside.

3. Get the chicken or vegetable stock gently simmering in a saucepan.

4. In the pan where you will make the risotto, sauté the onions in the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. It may seem like a lot of oil but we want to gently cook these for about 10 minutes to get them soft and oozing flavor so go with me on this! Don’t let them stick or burn. When they are looking soft and translucent, add the garlic and sauté for a further minute.

5. Add the rice and stir until fully coated, then follow with the wine and stir until absorbed.

6. Now is the time to start adding the stock, one ladle at a time, making sure the liquid has mostly been absorbed before adding another. You want the heat to be hot enough for a gentle sizzle but not so hot that the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan. A nice medium heat should suffice.

7. From the first ladle it should take about 20 minutes and you do want to be stirring pretty constantly. When you have a couple of ladles of stock left, add in the cooked pumpkin (reserve a few pumpkin pieces for serving at the end) and use your spatula to smoosh (that is the technical term!) the pumpkin so you are almost pureeing it right there in the pan. Continue adding the stock.

8. At some stage while cooking the risotto (or feel free to do it before), prepare the fried sage leaves. In a separate pan, melt the 5 tablespoons of butter and add the sage leaves. Fry gently until the butter is browning and the sage leaves are crisp. Transfer the leaves to a paper towel.

9. Before you add your last ladle of stock, add the last 2 tablespoons of butter and the grated parmesan and mix through. This will make the risotto glossy and unctuous. Check now for seasoning – you might only need to add a crack of black pepper as the stock and parmesan provide a good amount of salt. The rice should be al dente, it should have a bit of bite left in it but that is totally personal preference. You can add more stock if you would like it softer.

10. Add your final ladle of stock and mix through but don’t let it fully absorb as it will do that on its own by the time you get it to the table to serve.

11. Serve and finish with the crispy sage, some extra grated parm, and a drizzle of olive oil or sage butter around the side.

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