RECIPE: Pumpkin Risotto

All photos: Laura Hobbs, Fayetteville Flyer

It’s that time of year again. The air is turning cooler, the leaves are changing and it’s getting ridiculously hard to get out of bed in the morning. This is one of my favorite times of year, when the buzz of transition is in the air. The sun sits differently in the sky, being a little more bashful than it was during the searing peak of summer. There’s a crisp crackle in the air as the temperature and humidity begin to drop. The sandals and tank tops are put away as the wrinkled scarves and warm socks make their first appearance of the season. Fall is here, y’all, and I love it.

Some friends of ours, Jesse and Christy, just moved to Boulder from South Africa. Christy, a native to the U.S., says it’s been six years since she’s seen fall. Six years away from the fiery blaze of changing trees, cooler temps and cozy fall events like corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Can you imagine? She says that in South Africa, the transition from summer to fall goes from “freaking hot” to “not so freaking hot.” Nee, dankie.

To celebrate the official arrival of fall – and to celebrate our South African friends’ first fall in some time – I wanted to make something quintessentially… well, fall. And to me, that means pumpkin.

Ready to scoop

With the slew of community gardens and organic farms in Boulder County, pumpkin patches are all the rage. You can find all different shapes and sizes, colors and types. I stopped by our neighborhood farm stand, Munson Farms, and was overwhelmed at the assortment of unique heirloom varieties. After a consult with the ever-friendly help, I chose a couple that were just right for cooking.

With risotto in mind, I needed a delicious way of incorporating pumpkin into the recipe. I thought about chunks – Hubs’ favorite – but didn’t want to sacrifice the creamy character of classic risotto. So I found a compromise (as us married people do so well), by roasting the pumpkin and blending half into a smooth, creamy concoction, and chopping the other half into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Yay for happy mediums!

Classic risotto is no doubt a labor of love, but one that’s well worth it. The results are so delicious, you forget all about the tedious babysitting you just did, adding ladle after ladle of broth to the pan, massaging it ever so gently into the rice. Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab your favorite magazine and prepare to zone out for the better part of 30 minutes while you ladle, stir, ladle, sip, stir, stir, ladle, sip, stir, sip, ladle.

Once the risotto is finished, the roasted pumpkin is gently folded in at the end, along with a nice knob of butter and a good handful of Parmesan cheese. Top it with whatever your heart desires; it could be some perfectly plump meatballs, maybe a seasoned and seared piece of chicken, or a garlicky pile of Swiss chard. Whatever your choices are, make sure you share this dish with a couple of good friends, a nice bottle of wine, and a beautiful fall sunset.

It’s so good to be back, dear readers. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Risotto

(Serves four)

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For the roasted pumpkin:
3 c. chopped, seeded and skinned pumpkin
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste

For the risotto:
5 c. vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter, divided
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1 c. white wine
1 parmesan rind (optional)
1 1/2 c. roasted pumpkin puree (recipe above)
1/2 c. grated parmesan
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, chopped

First, roast the pumpkin. Heat the oven to 375°. Toss the chopped pumpkin with the olive oil, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool, place 1/3 of the pumpkin aside. Place the rest of the pumpkin in a food processor and puree. Chop the remaining pumpkin into smaller chunks. In a mixing bowl, fold the pumpkin chunks into the pumpkin puree and set aside.

For the risotto, pour the broth into a medium pot with a lid on the back of the stove and turn the heat to medium low, allowing it to slowly warm up. In the meantime, get to work on the risotto.

In a large shallow pan, heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil and 1 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the minced onion and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the raw Arborio rice and cook until you can hear the rice begin to crackle. Pour the white wine over the mixture and allow it to simmer down to about half a cup. Toss in the parmesan rind at this point, if you’re using one. Now you’re ready to begin adding the broth.

One ladle at a time, pour a ladleful of broth into the risotto, and stir it quite often. When the broth is mostly absorbed by the rice, add another ladle. Repeat this process until the rice is about 90% cooked – there can still be a little al dente left in the grains.

At this point, turn off the heat. Fold in the roasted pumpkin, grated parmesan, the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter and the parsley. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Serve the risotto with your toppings of choice.

Pumpkin Risotto

* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.

Laura Hobbs
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, check out her food blog, Prana & Pie.