I’m a huge fan of risotto and I know it can feel laborious with that “continual stirring“ but I'm
never ever disappointed with the results. A base recipe of onion (in this case leeks), carrots, garlic, rice and stock and then the rest can be completely up to you.
Some traditional risottos will also add a glass of white wine which you can also add here once you’ve added the rice and before you start adding the stock. The beauty of a vegetable risotto is that you can add different toppings to suit the taste of anyone. I’m very flexible with my diet and this would still be such a satisfying dish without the prosciutto. I absolutely loved the sweet, chewy addition of the maple pecans in the vegetarian version below and I think it really added to the autumnal feel of a butternut squash risotto. In my eyes- completely perfect.
I find getting the “liquid“ balance right in a risotto quite tricky. It shouldn’t be clumpy or dry; you should be able to give the pan a shake and see enough liquid that the risotto rice and mix should level out in the pan or bowl. No one wants a dry risotto but remember to add just a bit more stock if needed- you can always add a little more but you cant take it away if you accidentally turn it into a soup! (It’ll still taste good though....).
Butternut Squash and Leek Risotto - 2 ways
1 large butternut squash
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 large leeks
1 tbsp butter
2 large cloves of garlic, finely grated
400g risotto rice
1.2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
3 large handfuls of spinach
100g cream cheese
100g grated Parmesan
100g pecans, halved
3 tbsp maple syrup
12 rashers of prosciutto
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Peel, de-seed and chop the butternut squash into 2cm chunks. Spread out on a baking tray and scatter with the dried sage, rapeseed oil and freshly ground salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, giving the chunks a turn on the tray half way through cooking.
2. Whilst the squash is roasting, chop the leeks in half and then chop into 1cm slices. Finely chop or grate the carrot and then add both to a deep sauté pan or large non-stick saucepan with the butter and a drizzle of oil. Sweat down on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
3. Turn up the heat a little and add the risotto rice. Stir continuously for 2 minutes to coat the rice in the oil and flavours and start activating the starch in the rice (this makes it naturally creamy at the end).
4. Add the stock 1 ladle at a time and stir continuously. Don’t add the next bit of stock until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is getting dry. Keep adding the stock until it’s all in the pan (one ladle at a time) and add a splash more water if needed. Don’t rush- it should take about 20 minutes. **You don’t want a soup consistency but there needs to be enough liquid that if you shake the pan, the risotto levels out flat in the sauce**
5. Taste the rice to ensure it’s cooked (it should have a tiny bit of “bite” to it and not be mush!) and if you’re happy, add most of the cooked butternut squash cream cheese and most of the Parmesan and gently fold together. Add the spinach (it will wilt in the residual heat), cover with a lid, turn off the heat and leave to rest.
6. For the toppings: if using prosciutto, turn up the oven to 200°C- curl up each slice into a little nest on a baking tray and cook until crisp in the oven for 4-5 minutes. For the maple pecans, take a small frying pan, toast the pecan halves for 1 minute and then add the maple syrup and warm through until reduced and sticky for 1-2 minutes.
7. Give the risotto one final stir, folding in the wilted spinach and ensuring you have the right consistency. If a little dry, add a splash more water.
Serve in bowls, topped with either the crispy prosciutto or maple pecans and add the remaining butternut squash and Parmesan cheese!
prosciutto or maple pecans!