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Years ago, so many many years ago that now it seems like a lifetime, my sister Susan and I went to Tuscany together. Our kids were all still young and living at home, but we managed to spend a little over a glorious week there. On four of the days, we toured around in the morning and then returned to a villa at 4pm for a cooking class.
Most of the food we prepared at Tutti a Tavola was not fancy or difficult to make. We made lasagne using dried noodles, pepperonata, tiramisu, limoncello, bollito misto and risotto.
The risotto recipe contained fresh pumpkin and required at least a half hour of standing at the stovetop stirring constantly. For me, that is a non-starter and so I took the basic recipe and adapted it for my stovetop pressure cooker, subbing peeled and diced butternut squash for the pumpkin. This is a seven minute preparation that requires no stirring and comes out better than ever!
One thing I learned in Italy was to use liberal amounts of good olive oil when cooking. Do not hold back – this imparts a marvelous flavor and a glorious silky smooth texture.
I still order a case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy and use it for most everything and then give a few bottles to relatives who cook and who appreciate the gift. Mine is from my teacher Mimma’s vineyard – the Muricciaglia winery in Tuscany. It is so beautifully green and really earthy tasting – Olio d’Oliva delizioso!
This January, I made this on a Sunday night for my husband and me. Because we always dine at home, I try to create a nice atmosphere with flowers, napkins, beautiful food and theme music-here. For this dinner I found “Romantic Italian” on a playlist. Somehow it makes eating a lot more fun and elevates whatever I make to restaurant quality.
Risotto con la Zucca (AKA Risotto with Pumpkin)
- ½ – ¾ of a large butternut squash, peeled and seeded, dice into ⅓-inch cubes
- 3 Tbsp good olive oil for the squash
- 2 cups of Arborio Rice (can be substituted with “Short Grain White Pearl” rice)
- Another 2 Tbsp good olive oil for sauteing onion/rice
- 4 cups (or 1L) of chicken or vegetable broth (lazy me, I use Better than Bouillon and boiling water)
- 1 onion (or 1 cup, diced) or ¾ cup diced shallots
- 1 swig of white wine or dry vermouth (about 1 ½ Tbsp)
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese to finish
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
First, mix the diced squash and 3 tablespoons olive oil with some salt and pepper, and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes – until softened but not overly done.
Meanwhile, in the pre-heated pressure cooker on medium heat add the two tablespoons oil and onion or shallot. Sauté the onion or shallot on low until it becomes translucent (about 5-10 minutes).
Add the rice and lightly toast it to release the starch. When you add the Arborio rice to the onions/shallots, the rice will turn from solid white to translucent as it absorbs the oil and onion juice, then in about a minute back to white. Wait until just a couple of grains look golden and your rice is toasted!
Add a swig of white wine and un-stick any grains from the bottom of the cooker and stir the rice until the wine has fully evaporated.
Add the broth to the onions/shallots, mix and close the top immediately.
Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. For stove top pressure cookers: Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower the heat to maintain it and begin counting seven minutes pressure cooking time.
When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure
The risotto should appear just slightly too wet. Stir, and the rice will continue to absorb the extra liquid in about 30 seconds. If the rice is still very wet, put the open pressure cooker back on a medium flame, without the lid, and finish cooking it this way – stirring often – until it reaches the right consistency. For a classic finish, melt two tablespoons of butter and grated cheese and stir in right before serving. Adjust for salt and pepper
I add the cooked tiny cubed cooked butternut squash right at the end too. By the way, this works with diced broccoli as well or a combo of broccoli and squash.
Leftovers reheat beautifully or you could add some egg and breadcrumbs, coat with panko and saute for a different meal.