The first taste of autumn

As the seasons begin to change we turn our thoughts to what seasonal produce we can start cooking with. Butternut squash is a perfect staple to have in the cupboard for warming dishes as the nights get longer and the days get cooler. Plus the health benefits of squash lead to a healthy heart, low blood pressure and reduced anxiety as it’s rich in potassium and antioxidants.

So, kickstart your autumn with a tasty risotto that combines butternut squash with pancetta and parmesan for a creamy, flavoursome finish.

Risotto with butternut squash and pancetta

Ingredients (serves two)

  • 1 celery stick (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot (quartered and finely chopped)
  • 1 small white onion (finely chopped)
  • 150 – 200g arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
    Dependant on appetite
  • 1L of vegetable stock
  • ½ butternut squash
  • 75g diced pancetta
    pre-packaged is fine
  • Parmesan to stir into the risotto and to serve
  • Olive oil
  • 2 sprigs of thyme


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

  1. As before, halve the squash and peel the half you want to use removing any seeds. Chop into cubes approximately 2cm x 2cm, place in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with some olive oil and some thyme and cook it in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Next make the soffritto for the risotto – Italians use this base for lots of dishes from sauces to stews. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery and carrot on a medium heat for five minutes, stir frequently to stop it burning. You need it to soften and turn almost a golden colour.
  3. Once you’re happy with your soffritto, add the risotto rice to the pan and stir to ensure each grain is coated in olive oil, the grains will turn almost translucent, this should only take a minute or two – don’t let them burn.
  4. Add a splash of white wine and let it evaporate before adding the stock.
  5. Next add a ladleful of your pre-prepared stock and as it simmers stir frequently until the water has almost all evaporated, continue a ladle at a time until the rice is al dente, this should take about 20 minutes but continue as necessary until cooked. You may use more or less of the stock stated.
  6. Fry the pancetta cubes separately until they’re browned. Alternatively put them in before the soffritto and cook them together. pancettaProduce: I used guanciale (pig cheek) that I bought at the local farmer’s market from and diced it myself but the pre-prepared diced pancetta cubes from the supermarket will also do the job.
  1. Finally, add the butternut squash and season. If necessary also stir in the pancetta.
  1. Serve with grated parmesan.
    Risotto is naturally creamy as the starch is released but if you want to add some crème fraiche or mascarpone, add a tbsp. right at the end and stir or just grate some parmesan in before serving.

Top tip: Cooking risotto can be hard but take your time and don’t think adding more stock at once will make it cook quicker, it won’t!

Risotto with butternut squash and pancetta

Perfectly paired with: Since this is a full bodied dish it needs full bodied wine to match, U Passimiento wineotherwise the wine will seem watery and thin. This is a brilliant opportunity to try an Apassimento wine. In particular U Passimiento by Baglio Gibellina will have the body to match but also the pronounced fruit character will compliment the rich and salty pancetta as well as the earth notes of the butternut squash.

Wine recommendations from The Wine Education Company. This recipe was originally published in Herts Balance magazine by myself.

For more great food and wine ideas…

Read more about the recommended wine along with another great autumnal recipe for a butternut squash salad in the online version of Herts Balance, click here and turn to page 28 to read more.

Butternut squash salad


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