The crisp evenings of fall have me thinking: pumpkin spice and everything nice. In fact, at our local organic farmers market pumpkins have been available since mid August, but has been summery up until a few days ago to even think pumpkin. Now as the warm days fade into crisp and chillier evenings the rich dishes with pumpkin and fall spices sound ever so nice.
Risotto and pumpkin is a classically Italian combination. Pumpkin risotto is a typical dish found in Northern Italy and in particular in Lombardy.
There is a certain art in cooking risotto that creates such amazing flavors out of simple and peasant ingredients. First off, the rice used for risotto the most adept types are Arborio, Carnaroli, Baldo, Maratelli and Vialone Nano. From my experience Arborio rice is readily available in many countries. These risotto rices release starches as they cook, causing the grains to adhere to one another, in order to give that perfectly creamy risotto texture.
After you have chosen the right rice there are a few sacred steps for making it into a perfect risotto. The first step is the toasting of the rice. This serves to create an impermeability to the rice and therefore causes the starches to be released more gradually. This impedes the grains from breaking or from losing their desired ‘al dente’ crunch. As the rice toasts, it should fade to a more opalescent shade.
The next important step is to ‘Sfumare con il vino’ which just rings so much better in Italian than it does in English. In essence ‘sfumare con il vino’ is the verb that describes adding the wine to the toasted rice and letting the wine cook off until fully evaporated. Risotto can be cooked with red or white wine. When cooking risotto with saffron, pumpkin or asparagus white wine is preferred. On the other hand with richer and less delicate flavors like radicchio or meats, red wine pairs well.
Lastly, the ‘mantecatura‘ of the rice with butter and parmigiano. Another Italian term that perfectly illustrates the idea. That is, that once the risotto is fully cooked and taken off the heat, a small amount of butter and cheese are added to create an even creamier consistency. Then it is left covered for two more minutes before serving.
(I’ll let you in on one of my secrets: I never add butter at the end because my Italian boyfriend HATES butter. Instead, I just utilize the cheese to create its creaminess.)
And there you have it. A perfect risotto! Risotto can be made with just about anything, depending on the season and availability of ingredients.
Author: Ali @ Sustainable Psyche
My name is Ali. I am an American living in Italy. I am passionate about delicious food that is also ethical, healthy and sustainable. I love pasta and pizza, traveling, horseback riding and exploring the vibrant city of Milan that I call home.
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