Pumpkin Risotto-Risotto alla Zucca Barucca

The hidden Jews (conversos) who came to Northern Italy from Spain and Portugal brought with them the pumpkin and introduced it to Italian cooking. Initially, it was just the Jews who appreciated the sweet earthiness of pumpkin and other related squashes. In fact, they loved them so much that they started calling them the Blessed Pumpkin, the orange golden hue being a blessing for prosperity. Though pumpkin was everyday fare for the Jews of Northern Italy, it would be even more significant during Jewish festivals, as a source of blessing.

For pumpkin:

  • 500g (just over 1 lb) pumpkin, that has been peeled, deseeded, and cut into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Risotto:

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

To Serve

  • 100g (1 cup) blanched hazelnuts, toasted, roughly chopped
  1. To roast the pumpkin, Heat the oven to 200℃ (400℉). In a medium bowl toss together the pumpkin cubes, and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread in a single layer on a roasting tin, roast for 20-25 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked through. Turn off the oven, but leave the pumpkin in the oven to keep warm, while you make the risotto.
  2. For the risotto: Pour the Chicken broth into a saucepan, heat, and maintain at a bare simmer.
  3. Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, once hot add olive oil, once olive oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until soft but not browned.
  4. Stir into the pot the rice and continue to stir the rice until it is thoroughly coated in fat and almost entirely opaque, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the dry white wine, stir until the wine is absorbed.
  5. Stir in the broth 1 ladle full at a time, waiting for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. Stir the risotto continuously and maintain a simmer. When 6 cups of broth have been absorbed, add the remaining broth ½ ladle at a time and start tasting the rice. Take the risotto off the heat when the rice is tender but still has some “bite”; it should be creamy, not chalky.
  6. Fold in, the roasted pumpkin, season to taste with salt and black pepper, serve topped with chopped hazelnuts.