This risotto Milanese, courtesy of Karen Akunowicz (of Fox & the Knife and the newly-minted Bar Volpe), gets its beautiful golden color from precious saffron threads (their unmatched floral flavor makes them worth their weight, and a little goes a long way). Akunowicz often swaps out the farro for Arborio rice, an ancient Roman grain with a nice nutty flavor and a lovely chewy texture, but you can decide which grain is right for you. If you’re not a fan of butternut, you can use another squash of your choosing.
- 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 Tablespoons thyme, picked and chopped
- 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
- 1-1/2 cups farro (10 ounces)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
- In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned.
- Add the farro and stir to coat the grains with butter.
- Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
- Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese.
- Mix well and serve.