created at: 2013-10-17
Most people forget about pumpkin when they think of edible winter squash. There’s everyone’s favorite—butternut—then acorn, delicata, spaghetti, and a slew of others that people roast, bake, and puree when the weather drops. While these varieties are proudly given their place on the winter table, pumpkin is usually relegated to the jack-o-lantern in the background or scooped from a can into a pie crust.

But fresh pumpkin is much different from the canned stuff. It doesn’t actually taste like pumpkin pie spice. When seasoned and roasted, it tastes sweet and caramelized. And breaking down a pumpkin is similar to opening up an acorn squash: Slice it in half with a heavy chef’s knife, scoop out the strings and seeds (and roast them, if you’d like!), and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.

In this recipe, I incorporate roasted pumpkin into risotto in two stages. First, just as the rice begins to cook, so the squash softens and gets creamy over the long cooking time and infuses the whole dish with its sweetness. Then again right before serving, so every bite contains some of its flavor. With some brown sugar, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs, this recipe walks the line between sweet and savory and elevates this often carved (but rarely eaten) winter squash.

Risotto with Pumpkin

Serves 5

6 cups pumpkin cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon minced rosemary, divided
2 cups Arborio rice
1 medium onion, chopped fine
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you’d like to keep this recipe vegetarian or kosher)
½ teaspoon minced sage
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup Parmesan cheese

1. Place baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon rosemary. Toss until pumpkin pieces are evenly coated with oil. Once oven has reached 400 degrees, carefully remove baking sheet. Transfer pumpkin to baking sheet and spread out into one even layer. Return to oven and cook until lightly browned and soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn off oven.

3. In medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to simmer. In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining teaspoon oil. Once oil is shimmering, add rice to pot. Cook until each grain of rice is shiny and coated with oil, about 3 minutes.

4. Add white wine. Stirring regularly, simmer until no liquid remains, about 3 minutes. Add half of roasted pumpkin and ¾ cup chicken broth and stirring regularly, simmer until no liquid remains. Repeat step about 4 more times, adding broth in ¾ cup increments, until rice is soft but still slightly al dente. (You may have a bit of chicken broth left over. If you run out, add water in ¼ cup increments until rice is cooked through.)

5. Turn off heat and stir in remaining pumpkin, ½ teaspoon rosemary, ½ teaspoon sage, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.