Towards the end of the summer we started getting Delicata Squash in our CSA box. I must confess I never had it before but once I did, LOVED IT!!!. It is sweeter than any other squash I’ve tried. Squash and bacon is a popular sweet and salty combination all over cookbooks and magazines. When I thought about making risotto, pancetta sounded like the perfect addition of saltiness to the dish. Pancetta is pork belly that has been dry cured with salt, even thou it may look like bacon the flavor is very distinctive from regular bacon, however you can always substitute one another. I got my pancetta at Underground Butcher and the quality was fantastic!
Enough about the pork and on to the vegetable! Delicata Squash is so buttery and sweet, it’s like while roasting in the oven all the natural sugars come out to say “Hello” 🙂 Then of course you add it to creamy Arborio rice and the result is a lovely creation that gives Fall a great entrance to our kitchen. Let’s not forget about the herbs, fresh sage and rosemary give you a beautiful earthy flavor on every bite. This Delicata Squash Risotto with Pancetta recipe takes a little time from roasting the squash first and stirring the risotto the entire cooking time. For a busy cook like myself it is a weekend recipe, most definitely worth trying. Don’t be afraid next time you see that Delicata Squash at the market, grab some and get cooking!
2 Medium-size Delicata Squash, washed*
5 oz. Pancetta, cubed small
2 Cups Arborio rice
6 Cups vegetable broth
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1 Large onion, peeled and diced
10 Fresh sage leaves, cut into thin strips
1 Spring of Rosemary, chopped
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Start by trimming the ends of the squash, cut lengthwise and then in half, so you end up with 4 pieces from each squash. Remove the seeds with a spoon. We are using one whole squash to puree so leave 4 pieces whole and dice 4 pieces into 1/2 inch cubes. Transfer to the baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. With the half squash pieces facing cut-side down, bake for 20 minutes, stirring the cubes half way through the cooking time. When they are golden brown remove from the oven. Let cool for few minutes. When they are safe to handle, spoon the flesh out of the half squash pieces and make into a puree with the help of a fork. Reserved the cubes.
In a small sauce pan bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. Keep it in a low simmer in a back burner.
Place a heavy-bottomed sauce pan or Dutch oven in a medium-high heat with one tablespoon olive oil. Add the cubed pancetta and cook until crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the pancetta and place in a bowl to use later. Add the diced onions and chopped rosemary in the hot pan with the rendered fat. Cook until soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir together making sure the rice gets coated with the fat. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, stir well until the alcohol cooks off. With a ladle add just enough warm broth (from the pan in the back) to cover the rice. Lower the heat and continue stirring, once absorbed add more broth, continue stirring and adding more broth one ladle at a time.
When the rice is almost cooked, about 18 minutes in, add squash puree, sage and half of the cubed pancetta and stir well, add salt to taste and continue to add broth and stirring until the rice is cooked through with a little bit of a bite in the center. You may not use all of the broth, that’s ok, stop adding broth when the rice is cooked. The risotto should be creamy and moist. Turn the stove off and add the parmesan cheese. Stir well and serve immediately, top with the roasted cubes of Delicata squash and the remainder pancetta. Enjoy!
*It’s ok to cook the squash without peeling. For the puree you will spoon the flesh out. For the cubed squash the outside gets soft and deliciously edible when roasted.