If you are left with a dearth of pumpkins around Halloween time, try this canape friendly slant on the traditional risotto. These baked little morsels are crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
Pumpkin/butternut squash risotto is a vegetarian classic, a mainstay of many an Italian restaurant. I usually make mine vegan – I find it rich and comforting enough without the parmesan or fontina and I don’t cook much with butter anyway.
The best rice for this recipe is the traditional risotto rice – Carnaroli or Arborio. These are shorter, starchier grains which give a creaminess and help arancini stick together. You also use your usual rice but beware that it might lack the ‘stick’ of risotto rice that will assist in shaping your arancini.
The secrets to a successful risotto are allowing the grains of rice to gently ‘dry’ fry with the vegetable mix first, then adding the liquid very slowly – as and when it’s needed, allowing the rice to absorb it all before the next batch. You can use a ladle to ensure you add the stock gradually. The whole process should take about 20-30 minutes – make sure you stick around to stir it regularly!
Ingredients – makes around 20 arancini
1 kg butternut squash/pumpkin
2 large onions
Oil for frying and greasing
2 garlic cloves
100 ml white/rose wine (optional but recommended)
3 heaped teaspoons of vegetable bouillon powder dissolved in 500 ml boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
10 sage leaves – finely chopped.
- Slice the butternut squash/pumpkin in half and bake in a hot oven – around 200 degrees for half an hour or so until the skin starts to go baggy. Allow to cool until you can peel the skin off without burning yourself. Chop the flesh into small cubes, discarding the seeds.
- Dice the onions and fry in a splash of oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic after a few minutes.
- When the onions are starting to turn translucent and soften, throw in about a quarter of the squash/pumpkin and let it cook to a mush.
- Meanwhile, rinse the rice in a sieve and shake out as much excess water as possible. Stir into the saucepan with the onion and squash mix and let it ‘dry-fry’ for a few minutes, stirring to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan.
- Slosh the wine in first and stir well to coat the grains. Add about a third of the cubed squash/pumpkin and enough vegetable bouillon mix to allow the rice to bubble.
- Let the risotto simmer, adding more squash/pumpkin as you go along and sloshing in the dissolved vegetable bouillon solution once the previous batch has been absorbed. Keep stirring to avoid the rice catching on the bottom of the pan.
- Test the rice when you’ve run out of stock, it should be soft but with a slight bite. Add more water if it needs a bit more cooking. Pour in the lemon juice, stir in the sage leaves and season well with plenty of black pepper.
- To make the arancini, once the risotto is cool and sticky roll it into little balls. Cook them on a well-greased tray in a hot oven – around 220 degrees – for 20 minutes or so, turning mid-way, until they crisp up on the outside.
Go for a characterful white that won’t be scared off by the sweetness of the pumpkin or the savouriness of the squash. A racy new world, floral-and-lychee toned Gewürztraminer such as this one is a delicious combo. Note that it is also available at Waitrose Wine Cellar if you do not have a Booths nearby.