Yes, I am one of those people who get pumpkin fever, without fail, every fall. If I drank coffee, pumpkin spice latte would be MY JAM. For me, and I think for many people, pumpkin spice brings back memories of putting on your hat, running outside and jumping into a pile of leaves before they get bagged up.
If you’re overloaded with pumpkin bread and PSL (pumpkin spice lattes), try this savory option for a change. This recipe is special, as it’s a recipe that I learned while living in Marano sul Panaro, a remote town outside of Modena, Italy eleven(!) years ago.
Since those years, however, I’ve swapped the white Carnaroli rice for brown rice or farro. Not only do the whole grains heighten the nutrition and reduce the glycemic load, I think they add wonderful flavor and body as well. (Do not use long grain rice for any risotto, as it’s delicate and fluffy and will turn to mush. Long grain and jasmine varieties are best suited for pillowy pilafs.) If you decide to use farro, just note that your risotto will no longer be gluten free.
I like to use fresh creamy almond or cashew milk as a finisher rather than whole milk. However, in Italy we used extremely fresh milk from grass-fed cows that lived next door- if you’re gonna have dairy, that is definitely the way to go.
Finishing with fresh cilantro sounds incredibly non-Italian, but this is traditional! Cilantro really brightens up the mellow sweetness of the pumpkin and the earthiness of the nutmeg- don’t skip it. (If you hate cilantro, fresh parsley or sage will do.)
Happy fall and buon appetito!
Whole Grain Pumpkin Risotto:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or grass fed butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 onion or 2 shallots, minced
1 cup sweet brown rice, short grain brown rice or farro
1 bay leaf (sage leaf or orange leaf are great alternatives)
2 cups light vegetable broth or chicken stock
1 cup water
2/3 cup pumpkin purée from kabocha, sugar pie, red kuri or blue hubbard pumpkin (instructions below)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup creamy unsweetened nut milk or organic whole milk from grass-fed cows
1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper (about 5 turns on a grinder)
grated parmesan, to serve
cilantro, to serve
What to do:
For the pumpkin purée (can be made up to four days in advance):
First prepare the pumpkin mixture. Cook pumpkin of choice by cutting in half and placing, cut side down, on an oiled parchment-lined sheet pan and baking at 400 degrees F. Cook until a fork pierces the skin easily, more or less 40 minutes, depending on the size of your pumpkin. Remove from oven and let cool.
Scoop flesh from pumpkin and purée in a food processor or push through a ricer or food mill. For this recipe you’ll need about one cup of purée. Use remaining pumpkin for other purposes (Pinterest “pumpkin recipes” and you’ll see that there is a lifetime of possibilities) or plan on doubling, tripling or quadrupling the recipe to make croquettes out of leftover risotto;).
For the risotto:
Heat oil or butter over medium heat in a medium pot. Add onion/shallot with the salt and sweat for about 5 minutes, until translucent. (Reduce heat if you start to see any browning.)
Add rice or farro and bay leaf and toast in pot for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups of broth, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove lid and add the remaining cup of water slowly, while stirring frequently. When rice is halfway cooked and the liquid absorbed, add pumpkin purée, lemon zest, nutmeg and water. Continue stirring another few minutes. The grains at this point should be tender, but chewy (a.ka.a. “al dente”). Turn off the heat and stir in the milk and a touch of lemon juice to finish.
Serve immediately and top with cilantro (and parmesan, if using). A glass of dry white wine will go very nicely…just saying.