I was recently asked by a good friend of mine if I could come up with a recipe for Pumpkin Risotto. I won't mention any names, but this one Italian mamma said that she had fallen in love with this style of risotto when in Italy. I did some research and found a good amount of pumpkin risotto recipes, however most of them were very similar in taste and style. Pumpkin itself can be bland, so you need to add some spice to it to bring out its flavor. Most of the recipes that I found were heavy on the cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg, which are standard pumpkin pie spices. That didn't sound all that Italian to me, and I wasn't aiming for a pumpkin pie flavored risotto.
I finally came across a true Italian pumpkin risotto recipe which follows the traditional Lombard/Northern Italian method and used that as my launching pad, making a few other flavor/ingredient adjustments to my liking. Instead of cinnamon and nutmeg, this recipe called for crumbled up Italian amaretti macaroons. While I don't usually have amaretti macaroons on hand, I do always have a bottle of Disarona Amaretto in my liqueur cabinet. I decided to give that a try, and just one tablespoon added the perfect slightly sweet/slightly nutty taste that I was hoping for! The alcohol will burn off, but the Amaretto taste stays. There's no doubt, this dish will be a fall standard in my house!
A quick note on making risotto: Risotto is a demanding dish and requires the chef to stand next to the pot for the better part of 20 minutes. Turn the rice every 20 seconds or so in order for the liquid to bathe all of the pot. With the high heat your rice will dry out at the bottom and you'll need to move the rice with a wooden spoon so that the remaining stock on top goes to the bottom. Only when the rice is almost dry can you add your next laddleful of stock.
PUMPKIN AMARETTO RISOTTO
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5 cups hot chicken broth (you cannot use cold broth for proper risotto)
1 tbspn EVOO
4 tbspn butter
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1 small glass white wine
1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned is fine, but be sure to use 100% pure pumpkin. Do not use pumpkin pie filling)
1 tbspn Amaretto
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
In a medium pot, heat chicken broth (hot but not boiling), keep warm. In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add onions, saute until soft but not brown. Add rice, mix so all grains are coated, let cook for 2 minutes (it's ok if grains begin to slightly toast). Add wine, toss to coat all grains.
When wine has evaporated, add one ladle of the hot stock. DO NOT ADD MORE THAN 1 LADLE AT A TIME! Stir every 20 seconds or so until rice is almost dry. You'll continue to add one ladle at a time for about 20 minutes.
After the first ten minutes of ladling/stirring, add the pumpkin puree. Stir to mix completely. Continue with the ladling/stirring for another 10 minutes, or until you run out of broth. Add one tablespoon Amaretto, stir.
Cover and remove pot from heat, let sit for one minute. Cut up remaining 3 tablespoons of butter into small pieces. Add to pot, stir to mix completely. You want the risotto to be hot enough to incorporate the butter without actually melting it at contact. Add fresh grated parmesan cheese, stir to mix.
An optional dash of nutmeg to each serving adds a nice touch. Serve with a glass of white wine, or a nice pumpkin ale or Oktoberfest and enjoy!