For The Love of Orange Vegetables

Come Fall I crave orange vegetables. I am not sure if it is a vitamin deficiency or just that my body is in touch with the changing seasons but I am at the mercy of butternut squash, acorn squash and pumpkin come the end of September. I believe this elegant dish is in honor of orange vegetables, this time the star is  butternut squash.

I love risotto but I like it with some depth, I like it with some variation, some texture. So I decided to take my favorite hors d’ oeuvre, a butternut squash bite with parsley arugula pesto and turn it into a risotto dish. The roasted butternut squash is sweet, the pesto and sautéed mushrooms are earthy and balance the sweetness, then the pancetta ties everything together with a little salt bite.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Parsley Arugula Pesto

serves 4 as a main dish

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 cup shallots, chopped (3-4 shallots)
1/2 cup white wine
1-1/2 cups risotto
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 pound crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/4 pound pancetta, roughly chopped

Parsley Arugula Pesto
2 cups arugula
2 cups parsley
1/4 cup parmesan
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven 450°F, toss butternut squash with 2 tbs. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper (make sure squash is not crowded on the sheet pan, otherwise it will steam and will not brown properly), turn squash once after 20 minutes, then roast another 10 minutes. Squash is done when it is very soft and golden. Set aside.

Make pesto while the squash is roasting.

Pesto:
In a food processor add all of the pesto ingredients and process, slowly add oil and puree until smooth but still a little texture to it about 30 seconds.

Make risotto:
In a saucepan heat up chicken stock, then let sit on stove on low.
In a large sauté pan or pot, heat 1 tbs. butter and 1 tbs. olive oil add shallots and a pinch of salt and cook on medium low for 10 minutes. Add risotto and toast stirring to coat rice in the oil/butter for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring heat to medium, stir risotto occasionally and cook until the wine evaporates. Add one cup of the hot chicken stock cooking on medium heat stir occasionally and let cook till stock evaporates, continue with stock one cup at a time and after 3 cups add the butternut squash with the last 1-1/2 cup of stock. While stirring mash a few pieces and cover with lid with heat on low, while you cook the mushroom and pancetta about 5 more minutes.

Mushrooms:
Sauté mushrooms in a large sauté pan on medium heat until slightly golden when they are almost finished turn up heat and add the pancetta and cook until crisp about one minute. Fold into finished risotto season with salt and pepper and serve with pesto on top.

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