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With a preface from his book, "Every Night Italian"

Cooking has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. My mother remembers how, when I was still on my hands and knees, I would amuse myself by opening all the kitchen cabinets I could reach to pull out the pots and pans. One time I found a bottle of olive oil and proceeded to pour it all over myself. Fortunately, I was not banned from the kitchen for long, and whenever my mother cooked, I sat perched on a stool watching, smelling, and tasting. Thus I began to accumulate taste memories and assimilate the instinct for cooking. In fact I probably learned to cook through osmosis.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to help with in the kitchen was stirring the risotto. I loved how the risotto would soak up the liquid, increase in volume and become so creamy. It was also one of my favorite things to eat. The actual time you have to stand and stir is only about 20 minutes and you can easily share the job with family or friends. The relatively small effort will reward you with one of the world's great dishes.

This risotto is a specialty of Venice where, in the fall, it is made with a local pumpkin called zucca barucca. Its aroma is rich and sweet and its color a deep golden. In the U.S., I have found that butternut squash most closely resembles the flavor of this pumpkin.


(From Every Night Italian, Scribner 2000, by Giuliano Hazan)

Total time from start to finish: about 45 minutes

Serves Four to Six


1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound butternut squash (about 3 cups diced) salt

freshly ground black pepper

5 cups homemade meat broth or 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 5 cups of water

l 1/2 cups Italian rice for risotto such as Arborio or Carnaroli

2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cups parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated


Put the onion and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy bottomed pot and place it over medium low heat. Saute the onion until it turns a rich golden color. While the onion is sauteing, remove the rind and seeds from the squash, and cut into 3/4" cubes. When the onion is ready, add the squash to the pan with about 1/2 cup of water and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the squash is tender and all the water has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, heat the broth in a sauce pot and keep it at a very low simmer. When the squash is tender, add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add a couple of ladlefuls of the heated broth and stir with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring and adding broth gradually as the rice absorbs the liquid. Add just enough broth to produce the consistency of a rather thick soup. It is important to wait until all the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more broth. The rice will be done in about 20 minutes, when it is firm to the bite but not crunchy or chalky in the center. At the end, the risotto should have a creamy, almost "wavy" consistency.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the remaining one tablespoon of butter. Taste for salt and serve at once.
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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Previous Article:From the Family Cookbook.
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