It is difficult to find a well-executed risotto, even at the best Italian restaurants. Unlike many Italian dishes, risotto requires the chef’s undivided attention throughout the cooking process, which takes around 40 minutes. Restaurant chefs don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to a single dish, so instead they par-cook the rice during prep and then finish it off after the guest orders, cutting the final cooking time in half. While this process saves guests from a long wait for their food, it hurts the integrity of the dish. Perfect risotto needs to be stirred and watched constantly so that the rice cooks evenly. It is the dish that has sent more contestants home from Top Chef than any other. Clearly there is no place for risotto in a fast-paced cooking competition, because risotto waits for nobody.
Risotto is the perfect dish to cook at home on a Sunday evening or whenever you have an hour to spare. People who haven’t made it before often think it’s difficult, but it’s actually quite easy, it just requires some time and attention. Here is the perfect risotto recipe for the fall season.
Butternut Squash Risotto with Roasted Hazelnuts
1 cup of butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes
5 1/2 cups of homemade chicken or vegetable stock (or low-sodium, store-bought)
1/2 cup of Chardonnay wine
5 sage leaves
1 small onion, finely diced
1 celery stick with leaves, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
12 ounces of Arborio rice (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons of unsalted organic butter
1/2 cup of roasted hazelnut, coarsely chopped
Fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°
1. On a baking sheet, toss the butternut squash in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Once cool, transfer the butternut squash to a plate and set aside.
4. In a medium-sized pot, heat the stock on medium low. (Keep the stock on the burner even after it is heated.)
5. In a large Dutch oven (like a Le Creuset), heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium.
6. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and sage leaves. Stir constantly for about ten minutes or until they have softened. Remove the sage leaves.
7. Add the Arborio rice, making sure the rice is coated with oil. Stir for about two minutes or until the rice is translucent.
8. Add the Chardonnay to the rice and stir until evaporated.
10. Repeat this process one ladleful at a time, each time making sure it is cooked off before adding the next. This process should take about 20 minutes and the rice should be al dente.
11. Add the butternut squash and stir gently. Remove from heat.
12. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter and salt to taste. Close the lid and keep covered for two minutes.
13. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle roasted hazelnuts on top.
14. Serve immediately.