When one thinks of pumpkins, Italian cooking is probably not the first cuisine that comes to mind. But Italians do use pumpkins and other winter squashes in their cooking, especially in Northern Italy where the climate is a bit cooler.
We eat a fair amount of risotto at Beekman 1802 Farm. The mild taste and texture of risotto is one of the best ways to highlight fresh produce from the garden. Especially vegetables with subtler tastes, like squash.
This creamy pumpkin risotto is perfect for fall nights, especially when topped with crunchy spicy roasted seeds.
PUMPKIN RISOTTO WITH SPICY SEEDS
1 C risotto rice
1 C white wine
2 medium onions
4 t butter
2 T olive oil
1 C parmesan cheese
6-8 C of rabbit stock. (chicken or vegetable stock substitute is fine.)
Flesh from one small to medium pumpkin
Seeds from one pumpkin
2 T melted butter
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 t paprika
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To start, don’t make the mistake of using a grocery store Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin to cook with. They’re not bred to be eaten. Don’t even try, or you’ll find yourself with a completely tasteless, stringy mess.
We use one of our favorite heirloom varieties – the Boston Marrow Pumpkin. More pear-shaped than oblong, this pumpkin has rich orange flesh that holds up well in cooking. (To grow your own for next season, visit our favorite heirloom seed site, D. Landreth Seeds.)
Begin by roasting the pumpkin. (A medium to small one) Place the whole pumpkin on a cookie sheet, puncture with several holes to let the steam escape (important!) and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the flesh is completely soft. Don’t worry if the skin burns a bit. You’re not using it anyway.
Once out of the oven, allow it to cool a bit. It may collapse on itself. That’ll just mean it’ll be easier to scoop out the flesh. Once cool, cut in half, remove the strings and seeds (saving the seeds), and use a spoon to remove the flesh into a separate bowl.
Prepare the seeds so that they can be roasting while the risotto is being made. The easiest way to clean the seeds is to place them and the stringy glop attached to them in a bowl of cold water.
Rubbing the seeds between your fingers will loosen the strings. Place cleaned seeds on cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt.
Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Place tray in oven for roughly 1/2 hour, stirring halfway through. Check constantly to be certain the seeds don’t burn. Once finished, remove from tray and place in small bowl.
Puree the flesh in a food processor or food mill and reserve 1.5 – 2 C for the risotto. The rest can be frozen for muffins or pie or pumpkin butter.
Start the risotto.
Heat the stock to a brisk simmer while preparing the rice.
In a medium to large sauce pan, heat 2T of olive oil, and cook onions over a medium heat until translucent – do not brown. Once soft, add rice. Stir and cook over high heat until rice is coated and a little bit toasted.
Now begin adding the hot stock, one ladle at a time. (It must be simmering as you add it.) Stir continually until each ladleful is completely absorbed into the rice. After the second ladleful of stock, add the wine and let it absorb. Then another ladleful of stock. Once the third ladleful of stock has been absorbed, add the pumpkin puree. When adding the puree, also add about 1/4 t of freshly grated star anise. Stir until the liquid from the pumpkin has been absorbed. Continue adding hot stock until rice is soft, but still a little toothy. Go ahead and test it frequently as you cook. You don’t want to end up with pumpkin gruel.
Once rice has reached the perfect creamy consistency, remove from heat. Stir in the remaining butter, and the parmesan cheese.
Always plate risotto in a shallow bowl. It will ensure that the rice cools at a consistent temperature throughout. Some people like to present the pumpkin risotto in a hollowed out pumpkin, but we consider that a bit twee, if you know what we mean.
Just before serving, sprinkle a few of the spicy roasted pumpkin seeds on top, and garnish with any remaining peppery nasturtium blossoms that may still be surviving in the garden.