Anne's Blog

Risotto alla Zucca Warms Up a Chill in Umbria

Date: February 27, 2022 - categories: , , , - Leave your thoughts

A box of Carnaroli rice in the kitchen cupboard, a pot of meat broth on our stove, a hefty chunk  of orange winter squash on the table and snow flurries and biting wind outside joined together to inspire a recent lunch dish:  risotto alla zucca.

Carnaroli is the preferred variety for many for risotto...

…although the Roma variety is also popular. For the milanesi, Arborio rice is generally the choice. Italy leads in rice production in Europe, cultivating 140 varieties.  In the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont – where Italy’s rice varieties are cultivated – risotto is often served as a first course.

Risotto was our first course today.  Only a few ingredients needed for this dish starring la zucca (squash):  onion, winter squash, extra-virgin olive oil, white wine…and the rice.

I started by cutting the squash into dadi (literally, “dice”)….

…and then diced the onion as well.

I put  the meat broth I had made on the stove to heat it up and sautéed the onion in our olive oil for a few minutes until golden:


When the onion was golden, I added the diced winter squash…

…and as the squash simmered on low heat, I toasted the rice in a frying pan, tossing it gently for a few minutes.

This gentle toasting of the rice is essential to a buonissimo risotto to assure that the rice grains do not become “mushy” during the cooking of the risotto while these rice grains are absorbing the goodness and flavor of the broth and other ingredients added:

Pino added a splash of white wine for me to the rice (a bit less than a cup…?).  I simmered the rice briefly until all the wine had evaporated.

After the squash had simmered until soft…

…..I stirred in the rice and then added the first ladleful of boiling broth:

As the rice and squash mixture simmered on low heat, I stirred frequently, adding ladlefuls of broth as the rice mixture absorbed the liquid:

The adding of ladlefuls of broth to the rice and squash – while stirring frequently – takes about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the variety of rice used.  Add salt and pepper near the end of cooking – when the rice is al dente (“to the tooth”).  Then add a bit more broth to make the risotto a bit creamy – and a dollop of butter, if you wish.  Sprinkle with parmigiano before serving.

The more adventurous cooks might add ginger – or cinnamon. (Pino voted “no” when I mentioned these possible additions).  Those wishing a creamier risotto might substitute the Parmesan with taleggio, a semi-soft cheese with a thin crust and strong aroma of the Lombardy region:

We had no taleggio in our home – and Pino seemed happy about that…as he sprinkled on additional parmigiano:

Come soon to visit – and join us for risotto!

Click here to read about how to make a good meat broth

Click here for a delicious  pasta with winter squash recipe

Read about a food festival where risotto also stars


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