Creating great recipes from butternut squash is trivial because it has so many other things it pairs well with – and in this recipe I couldn’t help myself but add all of my favorites.
Sautéed apples make an attractive garnish but also add a sweetness to the dish, whereas the pancetta creates a crisp texture and a savoury richness worth digging for. Probably I should have drawn the line there but who can resist a bit of fried sage?
Tip: Make sure you chop the squash small enough that it can cook in the time it takes to cook the rice. For tips on cooking good risotto read my tutorial.
Squash & Pancetta Risotto with Sautéed Apples, and Crispy Sage(serves 2-4)
The risotto is all about the garnish, so you will want to have two things on the go at once: the garnish (sautéing away and then draining on paper towels) and the risotto (stir, stir, stir!).
First dice the pancetta and place it in a skillet over medium heat. Allow it to crisp, stirring regularly. Once crisped transfer to a paper towel to drain. Add 1 teaspoon of the butter and the sage and apple slices. Fry the sage until it is browned and crispy on both sides and the apple until browned on both sides. Also transfer to a paper towel to drain once completed. (If you want to crisp up extra apples and sage, just toss them into the rice towards the end and it will be extra delicious.)
In the meantime place your broth in a saucepan and heat until very gently simmering. In a heavy medium sauce pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil and remaining butter until the butter foams. Sweat the shallot over medium-low heat, until nice and soft. Add the squash as well as a pinch of salt and cook for 3 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and stir in the rice. Cook, stirring regularly for 3 minutes. Stir in wine and cook until wine is evaporated.
Ladle in enough warm stock to cover the rice, stir regularly until it is mostly absorbed, adding more stock as necessary to keep the rice covered and continuing to stir. Stir in most of the cooked pancetta reserving some for garnish. Start tasting the risotto after about 15 minutes of adding stock, if the texture is getting close then slow down your addition of stock. Continue stirring, and adding just enough stock to keep it well moistened until it is tender. Fold in the cheese and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
Divide between bowls and top with the crispy sage, sliced apple and any extra pancetta.