The sweet, rich, creamy nature of sugar pumpkin lends itself perfectly to being showcased in risotto. And pancetta provides exactly the right salty accent. This combination works especially well as a side dish for meat or fish.
Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish
1½ cups large-diced sugar pumpkin
1½ cups brodo
3 tbsp cold butter
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup diced pancetta
1 batch basic risotto
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp truffle paste (optional)
Ground white pepper
Fine olive oil
Place 1 cup of the diced pumpkin in a small saucepan, add enough brodo to cover, and simmer until mushy, about 30 minutes.
Mash the pumpkin with a fork, and then stir vigorously until it becomes a smooth paste. Incorporate the cold butter, then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a skillet on medium heat, sauté the pancetta in the oil just until it begins to brown and crisp at the edges, then remove it with a slotted spoon to a bed of paper towels to drain.
Add the remaining squash to the skillet and sauté until bronzed. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a platter.
Begin cooking the risotto. When the rice is very nearly cooked, and the supply of stock virtually exhausted, add the pancetta, sautéed pumpkin, and ¼ cup of the pumpkin purée.
Add the cheese, and stir until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and optional truffle paste. Taste, and correct seasonings with salt and white pepper. Serve lightly drizzled with fine olive oil.
Substitutions: Any sweet, firm squash, such as butternut, will serve as a good substitute for the pumpkin.
Suggested Wine: Barbera d’Asti or Cannonau di Sardegna