Recipe Share: Pumpkin Risotto

Dry arborio rice

This recipe is easy, savory, creamy, and so comforting. A dish of love and patience, primarily pantry ingredients come together in about an hour to make this hug-in-a-bowl. See our tips for reheating and next day enjoyment, too! Can be a main dish, a side, or a base for a one-pot wonder-meal. The pumpkin doesn’t even come into play until towards the end, so let your imagination play as you learn to prepare this version of a varietous, beloved Italian dish, which would technically be called Risotto alla zucca

Serves 4-6. You will need: 

  • 2 cups Arborio rice (do not substitute another rice; I have substituted orzo pasta in a real pinch and while it has a shorter cooking time, it can work but I don’t recommend it if you are not familiar with cooking risotto yet)
  • 1 Cup of dry white wine, vermouth, hard cider, or even beer. 
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 2-3 shallots are also appropriate
  • 2-4 clove of garlic, minced or pressed.
  • About 1 Cup  grated Parmesan cheese, ideally a whole chunk to grate fresh from; cheese of similar flavor and texture is fine to sub (pecorino, Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or even Asiago cheeses can all work alone or as a blend)
  • ¼ C of cream, half & half, or milk; ideally a higher fat content
  • 8 cups of broth (you choice)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 1 standard can of pumpkin puree; pie filling is fine, if there is no other ingredient except pumpkin. If you cook your own puree, you’ll need about 2 cups.
  • A heavy bottom dutch oven, pot, or large  pan.
  • Nutmeg, sage, thyme (dry or fresh, whole or ground; you will eventually need in a sprinkleable form)

A bowl of pumpkin risotto on a home kitchen counter, with a Painted Poppy Z Wrap and a hunk of cheese and a grater beside it

Here’s how:

  1. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in your pot over medium heat, and add the onion. Stir well and often until onions begin to turn translucent. At that point, add the garlic and stir well.
  2. Get your broth warm for best results; a pot on low on the stove with you is perfect.
  3. Add the rice- yes, to the oil and Alliums! Do NOT add any liquid yet. Stir well to coat each grain of rice in olive oil, and keep the rice moving in the pot. You are toasting the grains, and you’re looking for a moment when most of the rice has become translucent on the edge of the grain with just a little white bit, a kernel almost, remaining. When all or most of the rice looks like this, you’re ready for the next step.
  4. To your toasted rice, add the white wine. Wheee! Expect some action on that one. Stir stir stir! When the wine has just about been absorbed and (this will be a theme now) when the pan is almost dry*, add a cup of hot broth. Stir.
  5. Reduce head by about a third. Stir often. Keep adding hot broth one cup at a time whenever almost all the previous liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently.  
  6. When you add the last cup of broth, do a little taste test for doneness. Rice should be tender and creamy, not too undercooked or crunchy. If it’s not there yet, add warm water 1 Cup at a time and taste test until done. 
  7. Along with the last bit of liquid, add some seasoning: salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, a generous pinch of thyme and sage. With pumpkin, sage and nutmeg are especially nice. 
  8. When your last cup of liquid is in the pot and absorbing, get your milk, cheese, pumpkin, and some butter. When it’s just about soaked up, add all the pumpkin, your dairy, and 1Tbsp of butter. Stir well until it’s combined. Grate about 1/2C of cheese and stir to combine, then do a taste test before adding any more cheese or more salt. 

A steaming pot of food on a stovetop in the sunlight

Risotto is best served warm and creamy right off the stove. To re-heat it, you can make risotto cakes called arancini and fry them in butter. Or, you can take the leftover risotto and add it to a pot with a splash of broth or water and a pat of butter- heat over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and keeping it moving, until it’s hot and ooey-gooey again. 

Not a fan of pumpkin? Try the “original” version with saffron and richer beef stock and bone marrow! Or for a springy twist, peas and asparagus pair delightfully with prosciutto or bacon. Earthy mushrooms go wonderfully with risotto too- cooked into the base with the onions, or added at the end with the cheese.

A special thank you to a very beloved Nonna for imparting a love of food and family, and for teaching us this recipe many years ago! Here's a family photo from our recipe author of the original kitchen magic.

A three image sequence of an elderly woman cooking risotto and asparagus

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