An ubiquitous Italian dish in the fall and winter, Risotto di Zucca e Salvia, or Risotto with Squash and Sage, is a hearty meal that sticks to your ribs and fills your belly in the cold parts of the year. It makes use of the full bounty of winter squashes that show up in farmer's markets from October to February and fill root cellars.
Don't be intimidated by cooking risotto. In spite of having a reputation for being fussy, it is actually simple to cook, as long as you pay attention to it and stir it; don't leave it on the stove. And it really doesn't take a long time.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes peeled and seeded winter squash of your choice. The most popular one is to use butternut, but you can use delicata or pumpkin if you like.
1.5 teaspoon golden brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
2 cups arborio rice
1/3 to 2/3 cup dry white wine. Use whatever you've got on hand.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add squash. Sprinkle with sugar, then salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then cover; cook until almost tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add chicken broth to a large saucepan and bring to simmer; cover and set aside to keep warm. In same skillet used for squash, heat the oil and add the onion. Sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Mix in sage and stir 1 minute. Add rice; sauté until kernels are white with translucent edges, about 4 minutes. Add wine; stir until wine evaporates, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup warm broth; simmer until broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Add another cup of broth; simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time and cooking until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in parsley and squash. Cook until squash is heated, about 1 minute. Transfer risotto to large shallow bowl, or if you like, in hollowed-out squashes. Serve with the Parmesan cheese.