Squash Risotto with Pancetta & Sage

In this hearty, stick-to-your-ribs risotto, chef Colin Lynch combines flavors of savory sage, sweet squash and salty pancetta for a satisfying dish that’s well-suited to earlier sunsets and cooler temps. Lynch uses carnaroli rice (known as “The King” because of its use in traditional risotto making) but patience is really the key to this recipe. Follow his step by step instructions below and keep in mind: slow and steady wins the risotto race.


Serves four for an entree and six for an appetizer


  • 1 butternut squash (Chef's note: you may not need all of it - you are looking for 2-3 cups of cooked flesh)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 thin slices pancetta
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 10-15 sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Rub the squash with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined baking tray and place in a 350F oven for 35-45 minutes or until the flesh is soft and caramelized. Let cool to room temp and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
  2. In a shallow and wide sauce pot, heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat and crisp the pancetta like bacon. Remove it and drain it on paper towels. Add the onion to the pan. (Chef's note: You want to sweat this out aggressively trying not to get color on the onion, but if you do don't worry about it its still gonna taste good.) Add the rice after a few minutes when the onion is soft. This is an important step - you need to cook the rice with the onions for a few minutes stirring to coat all the grains in oil and toast them slightly.
  3. Now add the wine. Turn the temp to medium high and boil and stir until the wine has almost completely evaporated. At this point you will slowly add the water in three-four increments. (Chef's note: You may not need all of the water. It all depends on how al dente you prefer the rice. I like it pretty hard so you can really feel each individual kernel of rice.) Just before you add the final measure of water add the squash and use a wooden spoon to mash it up a little. Your goal should be some of the squash in chunks and some that kind of purees into the rice.
  4. Once you are 90% to being content with the rice texture turn off the heat. In a separate pan brown half of the butter and add the sage leaves. You want to fry them until crispy. At the same time, add the remainder of the whole butter and the cheese to the pot of rice and stir in to emulsify. The consistency should be loose enough that when you spoon it on to a plate or bowl it will settle slowly and not mound on top of itself so adjust with water if necessary.
  5. To plate, spoon onto each plate and top with a spoonful of the hot brown butter and sage mixture getting a few leaves on there as well. Place a piece of pancetta on top and finish with a little more parmesan cheese.

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