by Mario Batali

Risotto with Acorn Squash - Risotto Colla Zucca Recipe
Risotto with Acorn Squash - Risotto Colla Zucca

The only thing better than one acorn squash recipe this time of year is two acorn squash recipes.

Right now I'm making risotto colla zucca along with a for my family. These are my all-time favorite ways to incorporate this winter vegetable into a quick dinner before spring is finally in the air. This year, it couldn't come any quicker for those of us in New York City!

Acorn squash is distinctive for its longitudinal ridges and sweet, yellow-orange flesh. A sturdy, sharp knife is essential to slice the squash in half before removing its fibers. Very carefully follow a ridge from stem end to the point rather than slicing across the diameter. I like to save the seeds to toast for snacking, just as you would pumpkin seeds.

My secret to nailing the perfect risotto is allowing time for the rice to toast in the pan prior to adding liquid. Once it becomes opaque after three or four minutes, that is the time to hit the pan with some dry white wine. Patience is key when adding stock, in this case chicken. Remember not to rush it and, rather, give the rice time to absorb the liquid. It must be added one ladleful at a time to create the creamy yet al dente mouth feel I love so much about risotto.

The recipe for stuffed acorn squash is as simple as it gets: breadcrumbs for texture, greens for some freshness and Parmigiano-Reggiano for a true Italian touch. It's the perfect farewell dish to winter.

Risotto with Acorn Squash (Risotto Colla Zucca) Recipe

Excerpted from "Molto Italiano" (Ecco, 2005)

Makes 4 servings.

Risotto with Acorn Squash (Risotto Colla Zucca) Ingredients

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 cups chicken stock, heated until hot

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Risotto with Acorn Squash (Risotto Colla Zucca) Recipe Steps

In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and squash, and cook until the onion is softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the wine, then add a 4- to 6-ounce ladleful of the stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring and adding the stock a ladleful a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still a little al dente, about 18 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and Parmigiano, and stir vigorously until well mixed, about 25 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the risotto among four warmed plates, and serve with additional Parmigiano.

Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe
Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Makes 12 Servings

3 medium acorn squash

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped scallions (2 bunches; whites and about 2 inches of the greens)

4 garlic cloves thinly sliced

1/2 large bunch kale, leaves chopped into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons (about 4 cups)

1/2 large bunch chicory, leaves chopped into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut each acorn squash into quarters and remove the seeds. Cut a small slice off the backside of each squash quarter so it rests flat. Season the squash with salt and pepper. Place the squash pieces on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the oil, and bake for 45 minutes, until tender.

While the squash is baking, heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the scallions and garlic. Add the greens and stir well. Then cover the pot and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and cook until the mixture is nearly dry, 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, uncovered, for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Preheat the broiler.

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano in a small bowl. Divide the greens mixture among the squash quarters, and top them generously with the breadcrumb mixture, patting gently so that it adheres. Broil the squash until the breadcrumbs are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Risotto, Risotto with Acorn Squash, Risotto Colla Zucca, Italian

Available at The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence


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