I have to admit, I was prepared to not like this dish. I’ve only recently started dabbling in the world of butternut squash, but I do love risotto and was very interested in trying this recipe. I did, however, have my usual bacon reservations.
In this recipe, I was afraid the bacon would flavor the overall dish too much for my taste, kind of like a carbonara does. My concern grew as I cooked the dish, because you don’t actually brown the bacon. It cooks through, but there was still very visible bacon fat. Scary. My trepidation grew as the risotto finished cooking, and I was afraid I would end up ordering a pizza. But I kept an open mind, and took a spoonful of rice.
Wow. This dish is so delicious – the sweetness from the squash pairs so nicely with the richness from the bacon. Each component of the dish is tantamount to the overall result and omitting any ingredient would yield a disappointing result.
Garnishing the dish with crispy bacon added another interesting texture, a saltiness, another level of taste to play around with.
The more I cook, the more I discover that sometimes, even when the ingredients on their own are foods I don’t necessarily care for…when combined, they can yield truly spectacular results. This dish is about the sum of the components, not the components themselves. Paired with a crisp white wine and a nice green salad, you’ve got a meal that will satisfy you from the first cool evening in autumn until early spring, as you anxiously await the summer produce bounty.
Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces bacon, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan
4 oz bacon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350. Place the bacon on a wire baking rack and bake for 25 minutes or until crispy. Dice the bacon and set aside for garnish.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on medium heat to simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the bacon and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter (be sure to stir the rice well – every grain should be coated with the fat). Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until absorbed.
Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and most of the Parmesan, reserving a pinch for garnish. Mix well and garnish with remaining parmesan and the diced bacon.