One can make a risotto with any ingredient … why not pumpkin? Depending on what else you will be eating at the meal, calculate 80-100g of rice (Carnaroli or Arborio or Vialone Nano) per person for a reasonable serving.
If you have chicken stock available, use that. Otherwise make a very basic vegetable stock which is very little trouble to make, using an onion, a carrot, celery stick, whole peppers, parsley stems and/or bay leaf. Simmer for 20 minutes and it’s done.
While the vegetable stock is cooking away, begin by dicing the pumpkin and cooking it on a low heat in a frying pan until tender, with a little olive oil, or butter, a mixture of both, and salt and pepper. When it is cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.
Using the same pan, sweat an onion or some spring onions with some chopped up guanciale or pancetta (or sausage meat) with some olive oil …
Keep an eye on the pan, you don’t want your soffritto to burn! When it is ready, remove it from the pan and set aside. Let me explain why: In a risotto, the rice needs to be ‘toasted’ before adding the stock/broth — and this requires quite a high heat. Whereas the onion needs to ‘sweat’ on a gentle heat. So, it makes sense, chemically speaking, to cook them separately. It’s no big deal.
So … I have removed the soffritto that is now cooked and put it aside. And in the same pan, adding a little more oil, I now add the rice … and turn the heat up.
When the rice has properly ‘toasted’ and gone transluscent and pearly … I add a glass of wine and let it evaporate … until the rice is quite dry again.
Now it’s time to add the vegetable stock … and finish the cooking time (usually about 20 minutes in all).
Add a ladleful at a time, and let the stock get absorbed by the rice until you add more. This is the classic way of cooking a risotto. Stir … but as James Bond was wont to comment on his Martinis … shaken and not stirred … do not over-stir. There is really no need, unless you are in a fretful mood and need to make a risotto to calm your nerves (very efficacious, try it next time!).
And at some point, the risotto will start to look like this:
At which point, add some salt and pepper to season. See how ‘milky’ it has become … There are about 7 minutes to go before the 20 minutes elapse … so time to add the veggies.
Here is the soffritto and the previously cooked pumpkin. Stir it all in …
Add some fresh herbs of your choice. I chose sage. Do NOT add fresh herbs at the beginning of a risotto — they will just degenerate into tasteless slush and die an unheroic death that nobody will notice. Whereas towards the end — or even at the very end — they will surprise you with a teasingly pleasing enrichment of taste and cut through some of the oiliness of a risotto.
The risotto is almost cooked. Turn off the heat and add butter …
Add grated parmesan cheese …
Stir, taste, add more salt and pepper if required … and:
Put a lid on it. Give it a rest. And no, I am not indulging in expletives, I am giving the last piece of advice on how to finish off a risotto. This phase is called ‘la mantecatura’ from the verb ‘mantecare’. I am sure the root of this word harks to the Spanish word for butter which is, I believe, ‘mantequilla’. Basically, the butter adds creaminess and the lid adds steaminess and who can tell whether the carnal knowledge that ensues has something to do with the name of the Italian rice “carnaroli” ???? Whatever, the mantecatura phase lasts about 5 minutes. Time to serve the rice.