With the deep fall weather fully settled in, it's always a good idea to have some sort of squash on hand for simple, hearty dinners. This recipe was originally made to use up some leftover roasted butternut squash puree but has since remained a staple on regular rotation during the colder months, in large part due to its determination to satisfy every time. This is not one of those "make it in 10 minutes" dinners because, as most avid risotto makers will tell you, it is not a process to be rushed. Every addition of stock during the cooking process is lovingly watched and diligently stirred to create glutinous friction between each grain of arborio rice resulting in that velvety finished texture that risotto is known for. Substitute any preferred squash here; just make sure you have about 2 cups of pureed and cooked flesh.
Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto 7 Steps
Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all seeds, lightly brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet, wrap well with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 1-1.5 hours until the squash is fork tender and cooked through. Scoop out the cooked flesh and mash roughly with a fork, you should have about 2 cups of it, set aside.
Begin rendering the diced pancetta by placing it in a cold pan on medium heat. Cook until the pancetta has crisped and the fat has rendered out, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove the pancetta using a slotted spoon and drain off the excess fat.
In the same pan that the pancetta was rendered in, add in the olive oil as well as butter and melt. Add in the diced shallots and cook on medium low heat for 3-5 minutes until the shallots have softened and become translucent.
Add in the arborio rice as well as a generous pinch of salt and cook until the arborio has toasted, approximately 2 minutes.
Deglaze with the white wine, adding in another generous pinch of salt and cook until almost all of the wine has been absorbed. Add in the squash puree and mix to incorporate.
Add in 1/2 of the warmed chicken stock, another pinch of kosher salt and cook until most of the stock has absorbed, stirring regularly. Continue this process of adding stock, seasoning, stirring and cooking until the risotto has reached an “al dente” stage. This should take approximately 20 minutes and you will go through most of the chicken stock.
When the risotto has reached an al dente stage, add in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano as well as 2/3 of the cooked pancetta. Adjust consistency as well as seasoning as necessary with additional stock and salt. The risotto should be velvety and smooth, not clumpy. Transfer to risotto bowls or plates, top with the remaining crisped pancetta as well as additional grated Parmigiano if desired and serve immediately.