I've been thinking about making this risotto ever since last winter when I found the recipe on FoodNetwork. Bob and I love butternut squash, and I'm always looking for new ways to make risotto. Also, this is my first recipe using saffron! I actually found a (relatively) inexpensive jar at Trader Joe's and have been waiting for a recipe that calls for it. I'm not sure I really know what saffron tastes like, even after eating this dish ... maybe it was too inexpensive that the flavor suffered? Regardless, this was a great meal that we both loved. The butternut squash is so sweet and nicely counterbalances the salty turkey bacon (or pancetta). The shallots sort of melt into the sauce, which is creamy and smooth. Risotto takes patience, but this one is well worth the effort!
Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash (approximately 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used broth)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced (or the equivalent of turkey bacon)
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I did not use this much - just grated in a good amount)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
3. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
5. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.
Source: Ina Garten via FoodNetwork