Pumpkin Risotto

Earthy, savory flavors in a heartwarming dish


What is it about pumpkin and how each time I serve it, it makes people swoon? Nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool in the chef’s arsenal. It’s a direct line to the hearts and minds of your guests. It's that smell from mama’s kitchen. It's that flavor, which will always remind you of home. Or that memory of togetherness around a family table, the food you ate and the happy memories you shared. Would it surprise you to know that nostalgia is a topic taught in culinary school? Well it is, and for very good reason because with nostalgia you can create a dish that will not only taste divine, but also speaks to the diner’s soul. That’s how pumpkin risotto ended up on my menu.
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Prepping the ingredients

Toasting the pumpkin seeds

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Pumpkin risotto is an extremely versatile dish that combines sweet earthy flavors with rich, creamy textures and a salty, spicy snap at the end of each bite. The pumpkin adds a weight to the palate that takes this from being just another rice dish to becoming a centerpiece of the meal. It’s warming and speaks to that part of us that loves home cooking, yet it easily translates well into fine dining.

When it comes to a wine pairing, you could go with an earthy Italian white with brisk acidity, but I wanted something a little different and I’m glad I chose the route of exploration. The Masi Campofiorin played power against power, as rich spicy flavors complimented each other. However, what truly made this match was its beautiful structure and zesty acidity. Each bite of the pumpkin risotto was as good as the first, as the Campofiorin added depth to the risotto and then cleansed the palate for the following bite.

2007 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso Veronese IGT - The nose showed black cherry, dusty potpourri and sautéed mushroom with hints of cinnamon and clove. It was soft and enveloping on the palate with wild berries and spices, leading to a juicy sweet finish with red fruits and minerals lingering to the end. This was highly enjoyable and a pleasure to drink with the perfect amount of juicy acidity to make it a superb partner for a rich risotto.

Meet Chef Eric Guido
After working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development.  His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.

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  • Eric, where would you get the pumpkin puree from? Canned or fresh? If fresh, how is that prepared? It may be hard to find fresh pumpkin this time of year. I guess I could use acorn or butternut squash .. what do you think of that?

    Apr 20, 2011 at 9:02 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    It's the time of year that pushed me to include pumpkin puree instead of fresh. You can get quality canned pumpkin puree from a number of grocers.

    However, you could also make your own when the season is right. You could also use butternut squash (which I still see in local producer sections). Basically you roast the Pumpkin or Squash coated in butter and seasoned with salt until it's soft and you can scoop the contents out.

    Also, if in season, you could use about a pound of pumpkin or squash (cubed) and fresh, placed into the risotto pan after the shallot. (you should add about 2 TBLS of butter before hand. Let it cook for 15 minutes and them mash it in the pan. Stir in your rice and continue the recipe from there. (Remember that the stock won't have any extra pumpkin in it if you choose to do this. It would require a little more heat management but it would work.

    Honestly, I prefer the puree. Either my own or store bought.

    There are a couple of different ways you can go about this.

    Apr 20, 2011 at 10:20 PM

  • Thoughts on using veggie stock instead?

    Apr 21, 2011 at 8:59 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Absolutely, and I used to use it myself. However, I switch to chicken stock because the veggie stock added a lot more earthy flavors and took away a bit from the pumpkins ability to stand out.

    Give it a try though, you may prefer it and it certainly can't hurt.

    Apr 22, 2011 at 10:18 PM

  • I made this tonight, and it was freakin' awesome. It had so many layers of flavors - the pumpkin, cinnamon, and chili, and the buttererness and the cheesiness. WOW! The crunchiness of the pumpkin seeds was wonderful. A really big hit with everyone.

    A couple of comment though - I really didn't taste the peas at all - all the other flavors seem to overpower them. But perhaps their flavor was in there, and they are necessary - after this and the pork in Chianti last week, I don't dare doubt Eric ;-) Also I think 2 Tbsp. of butter was too much to saute the pumpkin seeds in - one would have been plenty. But these are very minor - it was really great!

    Thanks! Can't wait to see what you have next for us!

    Apr 23, 2011 at 1:41 AM

  • Snooth User: jerryri
    83639 2

    In October, I buy a few extra sugar pumpkins, steam and mash them, package and freeze a number of 2 cup and 3 cup bags and voila - real pumpkin to be used year round.

    May 14, 2011 at 3:55 PM

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