The trees are bursting into flower and pollen is swirling everywhere. The daylight hours are longer and to look out the window, you might think spring has arrived. But last weekend, we were hit with a cold arctic chill that erased all thoughts of warm weather. Record low temperatures prompted me to bring my Uggs back down from the attic and rethink putting away all my winter clothes just yet.
Between the cold and windy weather and that my first week of treatment was much more difficult than I expected, I needed comfort food. I found it in this risotto dish adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. Along with the risotto, we enjoyed one of our favorite chardonnays, 2006 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains. It is a mildly oaked and buttery chardonnay that goes perfectly with the richness of the browned squash and sage.
Kabocha Squash Risotto With Sage and Pine Nuts
6 main course servings
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 2–3 lb kabocha squash peeled, seeded and cut into ½” cubes
1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sherry
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
3 ½ c vegetable broth
1 ½ c Arborio rice
¼ c Marsala
½ c pine nuts, toasted, divided
Shaved Parmesan cheese
2 oz thin sliced pancetta, crisply cooked, crumbled
Sea salt and pepper
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add squash; sprinkle with sea salt. Saute until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chopped sage. Cook until tender stirring often, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle sherry over squash; toss to incorporate. Transfer squash to plate.
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in same skillet. Add chopped onions, sprinkle with sea salt. Saute until onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until onions are soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Bring 3 ½ c water and vegetable broth to simmer in large saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.
Add Arborio rice to onions in skillet. Stir until rice is slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Add Marsala; stir until absorbed. Add 1 cup warm broth mixture; stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue adding broth mixture by cupfuls until rice is just tender but still firm to bite and risotto is creamy. Stir almost constantly and add squash after 15 minutes of about 20 minutes total cooking time. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in portion of toasted pine nuts. Transfer squash risotto mixture to serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts. Top risotto with shaved Parmesan cheese and crumbled pancetta.