serves: 6 servings
In autumn, Lombardy abounds in zucca-what we call "winter squash"-and the seasonal cuisine makes full use of the vegetable. Squashes of all sizes and shapes are in the market-favorite varieties like marina di chioggia, berettina piacentina, zucca tonda padana, zucca blu, and zucca delica-to be cooked in stuffings, soups, pasta sauces, and risotto. And, like many fruits and vegetables, zucca is pickled with mustard seed to make the delicious condiment called mostarda, for which Lombardy-especially Cremona-is famous. This riso will be delicious made with any of our squashes-try acorn, buttercup, delicata, hubbard, or kabocha as well as butternut. The fresh vegetables of other seasons can be used, too, following the basic technique of the recipe. Asparagus in springtime or broccoli in summer will be delicious cooked with rice.
2 pounds butternut squash
1 cup onion, cut in to 1-inch chunks
1 cup carrot, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup celery , cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 cups hot water, plus more if needed
2 cups Italian short-grain rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli
2 teaspoons butter, cut in pieces
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, plus more for passing
Trim, peel, and remove seeds from the squash. Cut it into 1/2-inch cubes-you should have about 4 cups.
Using a food processor, mince the onion, carrot, and celery chunks to a fine-textured paste (pestata).
Put the olive oil and butter in a large heavy saucepan and set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, scrape in the pestata and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook the pestata for about 5 minutes, stirring it around the bottom of the pan, until it has dried out and just begins to stick.
Pour in the hot water or stock, and bring to a boil. Drop in the cubes of squash, then all the rice, stirring, and remaining salt. Return the liquid to the boil, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to keep the riso bubbling gently. Cook for about 14 minutes, or until both the rice and the squash are fully cooked and the consistency is creamy (see box).
Turn off the heat, drop in the butter pieces, and stir vigorously until thoroughly amalgamated. Stir in the 1/2 cup of grated cheese, spoon the riso into warm pasta bowls, and serve immediately, passing additional grated cheese at the table.