Most of you know that I don’t really do lots of pumpkin sweets, but I love a savory pumpkin dish and this pumpkin risotto is just out of this world. It’s rich and comforting and I could honestly devour the whole pan, but I won’t because I guess sharing is kind. Since Thanksgiving may look quite a bit different this year, I’ve partnered with The Feed Feed and USA Rice to bring you this recipe that would be the perfect addition to your table. Most folks aren’t having large gatherings and it’s tough to feel motivated to really go all out on a spread—I’m feeling that way myself and missing family and friends tons.
Pumpkin risotto is perfect because not only is it an elegant meal that will really get you in the holiday spirit, but it serves 4 and it’s finished in about 30 minutes. No slaving over a stove for hours and hours, but the finished product is still one you’ll be excited to eat. Check out some of my other small batch thanksgiving recipes linked below. Happy cooking and happy (almost) Thanksgiving to you and yours!
What is risotto?
Risotto is a northern Italian dish made with starchy short or medium-grain rice (often times arborio or carnaroli) cooked with broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. I know that probably doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s also loaded with cheese, butter, and my personal favorite: mascarpone. As the rice cooks, it’s stirred the entire time which releases the starches from the rice yielding a super creamy consistency. It may sound labor intensive but I promise it’s not! The stirring is just a great time to simultaneously consume some wine. The rice is truly the star of the dish which is why you’re not likely to see proteins in risotto. Sometimes you’ll see lighter proteins on top like seared scallops or, in this case, bacon. However, risotto is often meat-free as it’s so rich on its own!
what kind of rice is used in risotto?
Typically you will see arborio (short grain) or carnaroli (medium grain). Both are regional to northern Italy and work great. Really, any medium grain rice will do (don’t tell your Italian grandma that though!). Did you know that arborio rice is grown here in the US in California, Arkansas and Missouri? Nearly 85% of the rice that we eat in the US is grown by US farmers! Each year, 18 billion pounds of rice are grown and harvested by local farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. I used the arborio rice from Rice Select, a company and brand committed to their mission of selling rice that is grown, milled, and packaged in the US.
why use US grown rice?
what makes risotto so good?
I have lots of strong opinions here, so bear with me! Great risotto is 100% all about the texture. Risotto, when served, should spread slowly like lava. LIKE LAVA. It’s not soupy, and it’s not sticky rice; It’s somewhere in the middle. I believe that the best gauge for risotto success is having it slowly spread when you ladle it into a bowl. Thus, risotto should never be served on a plate in a restaurant. If it comes to me on a plate, I’m ready to flip the table because that means the risotto is too stiff. Also, never go out to eat with me, clearly I am an insane person.
There’s probably an Italian grandmother rolling over in her grave, but I stand by my use of mascarpone cheese. It’s not strictly traditional, but it gives the best texture and creaminess to the risotto. Also, please use homemade broth or stock for this recipe. Here’s my quick instant pot recipe for chicken broth, it’ll change your life!
what tools do you need to make pumpkin risotto?
Risotto is so easy to make at home! Here are my favorite tools to make your cooking experience a breeze.
- A wide skillet with higher sides. Risotto is best made in a wide skillet or braiser, something that has a large diameter across with sides that are at least 2 inches high. I don’t recommend trying to make risotto in a pot.
- A good wooden spoon. Why do so many recipes call for a wooden spoon? Wood is non-reactive and it won’t change the flavor of your risotto, like some metal utensils will. I like to use a wooden spoon because wood is more porous than metal, silicon, or other materials used for cooking utensils, and thus is more abrasive against the surface of the rice. This means it removes more of this surface starch compared to other materials. Can you use a silicone spoon? Absolutely, I definitely have. But the Italians swear by wooden spoons and they clearly know what they’re doing!
That’s it! Those two tools are all you really need to make a great risotto!
Can you use canned pumpkin puree to make pumpkin risotto?
Absolutely! Just make sure that you are using canned pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling which contains sugar and pumpkin pie spices! I made a bunch of pumpkin puree at the beginning of the season and froze it—here’s my recipe for making your own!
can you make pumpkin risotto vegetarian or vegan?
Vegetarian, yes! I personally have not made risotto vegan but there are lots of recipes out there for vegan risotto! To make this dish vegetarian, omit the bacon and use a mixture of butter and olive oil to fry the sage. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken and you’re in business! I’d love to hear if anyone makes this recipe vegan for my own curiosities!
How to make pumpkin risotto
The first step to making this risotto is to render the fat out of the bacon to get it nice and crispy. Rendering basically means to melt the fat. You do this by adding the bacon to a wide skillet and cooking it over low heat. The fat will slowly melt and crisp up the bacon and you’ll be left with liquid fat in the pan (so flavorful!). Don’t rush this process as it’s so important.
Once the bacon is crispy, you’ll remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Then, you’ll bring the heat up to medium and once the bacon fat is hot, add the sage leaves to the pan. You’ll fry these for about 45-60 seconds, you’ll know they’re done when they’re darker in color. Transfer these to the pan with the bacon and lower the heat. Then, you’ll add the shallots and give them a moment to cook in the bacon fat until they’re softened.
Next, you’ll add the rice to the pan. You want the rice to toast a little for flavor but to also get coated in all the bacon fat. Then you’ll add in the pumpkin puree and wine and stir so that everything is smooth. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, you’ll add the warmed chicken broth or stock (I keep mine in a pot simmering on the side), one or two ladlefuls at a time, stirring constantly, but slowly, between each addition. This is the key to risotto, continuous stirring which releases starch from the rice and creates creaminess. Once that broth has been absorbed, add another cup. You can tell when it’s time to add more broth if the bottom of the pan is exposed when you drag your spoon across the bottom.
You will continue to add broth, about 1 cup at a time while stirring until it has been absorbed into the rice and the rice is just slightly al dente. It shouldn’t be mushy, it should still have a tiny bite to it. This whole process will take about 20-22 minutes, so don’t rush. Just have a glass of wine and enjoy the stirring.
Once the rice has reached the desired doneness, turn off the heat. Then, you’ll stir in the butter, mascarpone, half of the crispy bacon, and gouda cheese. Stir until all the cheese and butter has melted. At this point, taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Ladle the risotto into bowls. It should have the texture of slow-moving lava and not be a stiff ball. Top with crispy bacon and fried sage, then dig in!
OTHER THANKSGIVING RECIPES YOU MAKE LIKE
juicy roast turkey breast
pumpkin baked ziti with sausage
creme fraiche mashed potatoes
easy dinner rolls
pumpkin spice Kentucky mule
4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
8–10 fresh sage leaves
1 large shallot, minced
1 1/4 cups U.S. grown medium grain rice
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dry white wine
6-7 cups homemade chicken broth, simmering
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup mascarpone
1 cup freshly grated 2-year aged gouda
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat a wide skillet with high sides over low heat. Add the diced bacon and cook on the lowest heat setting, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is slightly crispy and quite a bit of the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Add the sage leaves to the bacon fat and fry for about 90 seconds, until darker in color and crispy. Transfer them to the same plate as the bacon.
2. Add the shallots to the skillet with the bacon fat and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the shallots are softened. Add rice and stir to coat in the bacon fat so that all the grains are shiny. Toast rice for about 1 minute.
3. Add the white wine and pumpkin puree and stir into the rice. Bring to a simmer. Once the wine has been absorbed into the rice, add 1 cup of warm broth while consistently stirring. This is the key to risotto, continuous stirring which releases starch from the rice and creates creaminess. Once that broth has been absorbed, add another cup. A trick to tell when it’s time to add more broth is if the bottom of the pan is exposed when you drag your spoon across the bottom. You will continue to add broth, 1 cup at a time, while stirring until it has been absorbed into the rice and the rice is just slightly al dente, about 20-22 minutes.
4. Once rice has reached desired doneness, turn off the heat. Stir in the butter, mascarpone, and gouda cheese and continue to stir until the cheese and butter are melted and evenly dispersed. Stir the crispy bacon bits into the risotto. At this point, taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Ladle the risotto into bowls. It should have the texture of slow moving lava. Top with the fried sage. Enjoy!