Dinner for Two – Roasted Butternut Risotto with Prosciutto and Sage

It was only a few months ago that my fellow bloggers were posting winter warmer recipes while my own blog was alive with fresh berries and all things summer. Now the seasons have shifted and it’s been turned upside down – winter in the south and summer in the north. But there must be balance in all things.

I have no problem with the change in season. As much as I love summer I look forward to winter – for two reasons. One is boots – laugh if you will but there is something very special about the first outing of winter boots once the weather cools.

The second, of course, is winter food. By the time autumn creeps in I’ve had my fill of salads and sprightly summer food. Time for a bit of comfort – dishes cooked long and slow in the oven, hot puddings, hearty porridge for breakfast and, of course, those fabulous autumn and winter vegetables.

For me the standout is butternut squash – in my opinion the most delicious of the winter squashes. It is incredibly versatile and so nutritious – its flesh boasts vitamins A, C and E. In its simplest form I love it coated lightly in olive oil, seasoned and roasted in the oven. I could polish off a panful of it straight out of the oven. One of my favourite things to eat (I challenge you to trawl my blog and count how many times I say that)! Yes, it’s true, I have many favourites.

Another firm favourite is risotto. It’s an Italian classic that dates back centuries. The dish comes from the northern region of Italy and in certain parts it is enjoyed in preference to pasta. Personally I’d be hard pressed to state a preference as I love them both but food is such a regional thing in Italy and Italians are fiercely passionate when it comes to the food from their own region.

When discussing risotto I often get the feeling that it’s one of those dishes people like the idea of but would never consider cooking themselves. Admittedly it is a dish that requires love and attention but really not for that long. And the end result is so worth the small amount of time you’ve had to wield a wooden spoon. It’s one of the only dishes I know where you can achieve divine creaminess without actually having to add cream. It’s the starch, which is slowly released from the rice while you patiently stir for twenty minutes that creates the fabulous texture – it should ooze onto the plate.

I don’t cook it often because my husband isn’t a fan (although I’ll never understand why). I therefore tend to cook it as a solitary treat or for a friend when he goes away. In the summertime I like to make my saffron and tomato risotto when tomatoes are at their best.

But in the colder months I prefer combinations that add warmth and comfort. What I love about this risotto is that the garnishes are as important as the rice itself. They add enormously to the flavour and texture but take only minutes to prepare. They also ensure that the dish looks mouthwateringly delicious once it comes to the table.

I’ve named this post dinner for two because something I would say about risotto is that I wouldn’t want to be cooking it for a lot of people. While comforting, yes, it has an elegance about it that fits perfectly with a more intimate dinner for two. As someone who likes to communicate through food this is one way in which I choose to show people how much I care. Cook this risotto for a special person in your life. Once you start eating words won’t be necessary.

 

Roasted Butternut Risotto with Prosciutto & Sage

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

Roasted Butternut

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Risotto

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • Dash of olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 200g Arborio or other risotto rice
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 40g Parmesan cheese

Garnish

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • Dash of olive oil
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • Small knob of unsalted butter
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, left whole
  • Parmesan shavings
  • Olive oil, optional

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. The first job is to get the butternut underway. Remove the skin and seeds, chop into 2-3 cm chunks and place in a shallow roasting tray. I like to line the tray first with foil or baking paper (to save a messy cleanup later on).
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and then use your hands to ensure all the pieces of butternut are slicked with the oil and seasoning.
  4. Place in the heated oven. It will take around 30-40 minutes to roast but start checking from 30 minutes. Remove a piece, cool it slightly and then have a taste. You want it just starting to burnish on the outside but it should be soft and melting within. Set aside.
  5. Before starting the risotto I like to prepare my garnishes. That way you can give the rice your full attention and have everything ready to go once it’s done. So to a hot frying pan add the pine nuts to toast, tossing them regularly to get an even colour. Remove to a bowl.
  6. Add a small dash of olive oil to the pan. Lay the prosciutto slices in the pan. They will start to sizzle immediately. The slices will take literally seconds to get a light golden crispness. Turn over and quickly fry the other side. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  7. Now add a very small knob of butter to the pan and add the sage leaves. Exactly the same process – they will take only seconds to crisp up. Turn over and crisp up the other side then remove to the plate with the prosciutto.
  8. At this stage you can also prepare the parmesan. You want 40g of finely grated parmesan for the risotto and also some shavings for the garnish.
  9. It sounds like a lot of steps but they are so quick you’ll be done before you know it.
  10. Now get started on the risotto. Pour the chicken stock into a small pan and bring to the heat – but don’t let it come to the boil. You just want it to remain at a very gentle simmer throughout the cook.
  11. In a separate pan over a low-medium heat add the butter and a dash of olive oil. Add the prepared shallots and sauté until soft and translucent. Then add the chopped sage leaves and cook for another minute or so to soften the leaves.
  12. Now add the rice and stir well to ensure every grain is slicked with the buttery shallots and sage. Turn up the heat slightly and pour in the wine so that it starts to simmer immediately. This is when you need to start stirring.
  13. Once the rice has absorbed the wine lower the heat and start adding the chicken stock – one ladleful at a time. And you must wait until the rice has absorbed that ladleful before adding the next. Continue to stir. It’s actually a wonderful process. As you stir and the rice starts to absorb the liquid you are basically massaging the creamy starch from the rice.
  14. Now something to note in regards to the quantity of stock. It’s very difficult to be precise as to exactly how much stock you’ll need. Packets of rice differ. Every batch of risotto you make is very individual in this respect. Once the stock is almost gone ensure the kettle is boiled so you can add some water if the risotto needs more liquid. Have a taste and check if the rice is cooked. It should be soft but still have the hint of a bite. Keep adding ladlefuls of liquid (stock/water) until the rice is cooked. Season with salt and pepper and then have another quick taste.
  15. Once you’re happy with the seasoning add the roasted butternut and carefully stir through. Now add the grated parmesan and gently stir through so it melts into the rice. The texture should now be creamy.
  16. Spoon into waiting plates or bowls – it should ooze onto the plate.
  17. Now here is where you can have fun – arrange the garnishes and make the dish look beautiful. The crispy prosciutto and sage leaves and the crunch of the pine nuts add a great texture contrast to the creamy risotto. Not to mention the flavours sing together so beautifully. I like to drizzle over a little more olive oil but this is optional.

Take your bowls of risotto to the table with no other cutlery than a spoon – I really do think this risotto deserves to be eaten with a spoon.

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Buon Appetito!

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31 Comments

  1. Rini says:

    Tracey, that’s such an awesome recipe. Like you, I love the combination of risotto and butternut squash (or even separate).I also completely get what you mean by looking forward to winter because of boots. I loooove boots. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Tracey.I agree on everything, especially the boots and small batches of risotto! Besides there are so many great fall boots out now! But when we make risotto, even if the recipe says for 4, my son and I manage to finish the whole thing off between us…which is just fine because unless I want to make arancini, risotto is always best right away. 🙂 It was nice to hear that the proper consistency is when it oozes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Mollie. I’ll confess that when I make risotto for myself I still make the same amount. One occasion when I dispense with portion control. So yummy and comforting – like a warm blanket. Love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks wonderful. It certainly compliments a dish like this with both texture and flavor. I don’t eat a lot of risotto (because it is a starchy carb), but I do have it as part of side dishes every few months.
    Looking forward to your wintery recipes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jonathan. You’re right – there’s no getting away from the fact that risotto is a starchy carb, which is why I also eat it as a treat occasionally. But it certainly does the job as a treat – so delicious!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely. I am a BIG believer in eating ALL foods people enjoy…I simply suggest they do so intelligently to they can continue to enjoy them for MANY years without harming their bodies.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. annika says:

    Well, well… I found something that we absolutely don’t have in common! Boots! If I could, Tracey, I would wear sandals all year long. A love for winter food and risotto is something that we do have in common. Our local squash will be available soon so I won’t have to wait long to try this. Better yet, I have sage growing in the garden and will try adding your crispy version to a meal soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Annika, you don’t like boots??!! Eventually there had to be something we didn’t agree on. But we’ll always have food. You really would love this risotto and, yes, the crispy sage is just so divine. Thank you, my friend.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Roasted Butternut Risotto with Prosciutto and Sage | My Favorite Recipes

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