Some years back, I was sharing my flat with a girl from Italy’s rice belt. Our compatible timings and tastes brought us together around the dinner table many a times, sharing our food and exchanging thoughts. I cooked many batches of pumpkin & lentil soup that winter, as Ele had developed a special fondness for it.
When Ele cooked, she would often make risotto, using high-quality rice from her region and different combinations of vegetables. One day, inspired by our common love for pumpkin, she decided to try her hands on a risotto alla zucca. The taste of that pumpkin risotto has lingered on in my memory ever since.
A risotto is like a toddler that demands your full attention; when cooking a risotto, you need to nurture it and cater to its needs, but also set it free. Gradually add broth while stirring so that the rice won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Leaving a risotto unattended is like asking for trouble…
Several years later, I attempted recreating it from memory. Although the dish has now become part of my repertory, I still owe it to her. I am therefore sharing this recipe on Ele’s behalf as well, thanking her for initiating me to a great culinary experience.
- Half a small pumpkin or butternut, (steamed) peeled and cut in pieces
- 100 ml (organic) whole grain risotto rice (round grain)
- 2 big garlic cloves, chopped
- half a cinnamon stick
- 500/600 ml vegetable broth
- 50 ml white wine
- salt, nutmeg
- oil and/or butter
- Steam the pumpkin, peel it and cut it in small pieces.
- Clean and rinse the rice and strain it in a colander.
- Prepare the broth, by using a vegetable stock cube, or by boiling a carrot, an onion and a bay leaf.
- In a sauce pan, heat up 2 tsp of oil or butter and add the finely chopped garlic and the cinnamon stick.
- When the garlic has turned golden, add the rice and let it get coated by the oil before you add the white wine (if you like a stronger wine taste, you can increase the amount to 100 ml).
- When the wine has almost evaporated, add another teaspoon of oil and the pumpkin cut in pieces, not forgetting to stir.
- Add some broth, a pinch of salt, and switch to low heat (i.e. 2/9), covering the pan with the lid.
- Steam the pumpkin by placing it in an oven tray with a little bit of water and baking it in a 200 C (390 F) oven, until you can pierce the peel with a fork. You should let it become too soft. Take it out of the oven and let it cool before you peel it and cut it into pieces.