Butternut Squash and Apple RisottoSeptember 16, 2016 By Cathy — 17 Comments
Your favorite fall flavors are stirred into the ultimate comfort food…risotto! This creamy risotto is dotted with chunks of roasted butternut squash, sautéed apples and salty pancetta for a stick-to-your-ribs one-dish meal or an elegant first course.
As I approach the end of my first year of blogging (has it really been almost a year?!), I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I’ve learned over the past several months. I’ve learned that it can be difficult to meticulously write recipes for dishes I’ve casually thrown together in the past, that photographing food is often times far more challenging than cooking it, that I prefer seeing my hands instead of my face on camera (scroll to the bottom of this post for more on that) and even when I love a recipe, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to pull a few paragraphs together to tell you about it.
I’ve realized that I have so much more to learn when it comes to taking photos and editing videos, but I’m proud of the way I’ve improved since that first post. I’ve learned that my sons and their friends are thrilled when I’m recipe-testing cakes, but not so much brussels sprouts. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that it’s not easy to put yourself out there for the world to see without a little positive reinforcement and support.
Nothing makes me happier than when I open my inbox and there’s a photo from a reader that’s made one of my recipes and he or she has taken the time to snap a picture for me. Or to learn that someone has cooked one of my dishes and everyone in his or her family has happily gobbled it up. Or the satisfaction that comes when a former asparagus-phobe has been converted into a fan by a simple, creamy sauce.
But perhaps the most surprising revelation was how welcomed and supported I feel in the food blogger community. As a career-changer and an at-home mom, I’ve been a part of many different work environments and groups over the years. I have formed life-long friendships along the way and met some pretty special people, but I’ve never before experienced the support that I’ve received since beginning this journey. To have complete strangers stop by the blog to cheer you on and really read what you’ve written is a pretty cool thing.
There are a tremendous amount of talented food bloggers out there and I’ve been inspired by so many of them. You would think that the environment would be competitive and snarky, but instead it’s warm and welcoming. So I was beyond thrilled when Alida from Simply Delicious approached me to collaborate on a post. See that’s another cool thing about this blogging schtick, you make friends from across the globe. Alida hails from South Africa, where not only does she whip up drool-worthy dishes for her blog, but she has also authored two cookbooks. She’s a consummate pro and her dishes are always inspired and inspiring.
So, enough talk….let’s get to the food! Today Alida and I are bringing you two very different takes on risotto. I’m all about warm, cozy fall flavors…specifically roasted squash and apples as we head into cooler temperatures. However, Alida is about to embrace summer in South Africa. So instead of a warm bowl of goodness, she’s making her risotto into mushroom arancini (aka stuffed rice balls and hers are stupid good btw). See, that’s the great thing about cooking, one idea or craving can morph into something that speaks to you or to the season. So, today is technically a two-fer….my fall inspired dish and Alida’s fabulous dish, which frankly fits into any season.
Oh, and to get back to how fortunate I am to have met so many great folks this past year, I would be remiss not to mention Hank Zona. Hank is the resident wine guru in my town and asked me to participate in one of his videos in which he teaches about and celebrates wine. In this particular segment, I provided a recipe to a local chef who then prepared it for us to enjoy and discuss, paired of course with the delectable wines that Hank selected. Well, the day was a delight. The wines that Hank selected were beyond delicious and truly enhanced the dishes. Fellow food blogger Jo Ann from Life is a Bowl of Pasta was there as well to contribute her recipe for perhaps the most lick-the-plate-worthy chicken cacciatore I have ever eaten. And Chef Richard Krug of Krug Catering was the man behind the curtain, delivering his interpretations of our recipes and truly elevating them to restaurant worthy fare.
A clip from our wine and food drenched day is below (see why I only use my hands and music in my videos?). And don’t forget to check out more of Hank’s fun and informative videos here.
And now what are you waiting for?? Go and check out Alida’s fabulous recipe for mushroom arancini now! If I’ve learned one thing from the past year, it’s about spreading the love. And when you’re working with and around such talented folks, it’s not only not only easy, it’s downright delicious.
- 1½ lb butternut squash, halved and seeds/pulp scooped out
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3½ cups chicken stock
- ¼ lb pancetta, cut into three thick slices, then cut into ¼ inch dice
- 1 apple, (I like Gala or Braeburn), peeled, cored and cut into a ¼ inch dice
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup parmesan, grated
- 1½ Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- Minced thyme for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of nonstick foil on a half sheet tray.
- Peel and cut one half of the squash into a ¼ inch dice. Scatter squash chunks on one half of the sheet tray and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Rub the other half of the squash with 1 Tbsp olive oil and lay cut side down on the other side of the tray. Season with salt and roast until browned and tender, about 30 mins.
- When the half of squash is slightly cooled, scoop out and puree in a food processor until smooth. Add a tablespoon or two of stock to thin if needed. Set aside.
- Pour chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
- In a large wide skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
- Add pancetta to the skillet and cook, stirring often until browned, about 10 mins. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve 2 Tbsp pancetta drippings and set aside. Pour out the remaining grease, but don't wipe pan.
- Place pan over medium heat and add apples and cook until browned, about 10 mins. Remove apples and reserve.
- Place the same skillet over medium heat and add the reserved pancetta drippings to the pan.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and golden, 5-8 mins.
- Pour some salt in a small dish near the stove so you can season the risotto throughout the cooking process.
- Add the rice to pan and stir well to coat. Toast the rice for about one min and then add the white wine.
- Add about ¼ cup of warm stock at a time and stir until fully absorbed. Repeat the process, seasoning throughout with salt, until almost all of the liquid is added and absorbed (will take about 20 mins).
- Taste the risotto. You want the rice to be tender, but with a slight bite. Add a little more stock if needed. Stir in the pureed squash.
- Stir in the nutmeg, parmesan, butter and thyme until incorporated.
- Fold in half of each of the roasted diced squash, apples and pancetta.
- Spoon into bowls and serve immediately. Garnish with the reserved squash chunks, apples, pancetta and thyme.