This creamy squash risotto, Risotto alla Zucca, gets a slight sweetness from butternut squash. It’s the perfect recipe for a warming fall dinner!
Risotto alla Zucca and Italian Pumpkins
A popular fall risotto, Risotto alla Zucca (pronounced ree-ZO-toe A-la SU-ka), is a winter squash risotto that traditionally uses Italian pumpkin. However, Italian pumpkins differ slightly from American pumpkins. They are sweeter and less fibrous, much closer in flavor and texture to an American butternut squash.
It was the Spanish who brought the pumpkin and other squash to Spain from the New World. And, it was the Spanish who introduced pumpkins to southern Italy. Their popularity quickly spread north to Venice and “zucca” became a staple food among Italian peasants. Venice, of all places, became a mecca for growing and selling different varieties of “zucca”. At one time it wasn’t uncommon to find street vendors selling cooked and spiced slices of pumpkin as a sweet treat for travelers!
While Americans associate their pumpkins with pie or jack o’ lanterns, the Italians associate their “zucca” with more savory fare like ravioli, gnocchi, and this classic risotto.
Our Italian Winter Squash Risotto Recipe
For our Risotto alla Zucca recipe we used butternut squash to mimic the sweet flavor of Italian pumpkin. Combining sweet butternut squash with creamy arborio rice and Parmesan cheese makes for the perfect, creamy and comforting meal for a chilly night. If you are craving a bigger meal, this dish would act as a wonderful side dish to serve with beef or chicken.
As you stand and stir your risotto, enjoy the smells of fall that fill your kitchen!
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 lb butternut squash, diced ½ inch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp rosemary, dry
- 6 ½ c water, divided
- 1 ½ c Arborio rice*
- 1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (roughly ⅓ c), plus additional for serving
- In a large, 12” sauté pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add diced onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until golden. Add the squash, salt, rosemary, and ½ cup of water to the onions and cook until the squash begins to turn tender, 10 minutes.
- While the squash is cooking, bring the remaining 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat to low to maintain a slow simmer.
- Add the rice to the squash mixture, and mix until evenly distributed.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and add the water, 1-2 ladles at a time (roughly 1 c). Stirring between each addition and waiting until the water has completely absorbed before adding any additional water. Continue to cook the risotto this way until the rice is soft and creamy, roughly 30 minutes. (You may not use all of the water in your saucepan.)
- Once the rice has reached your desired consistency, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.
- Serve immediately topped with additional Parmesan cheese.