Tag Archive | Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fall Foods Recipe #5: Butternut Squash Risotto

Cooking risotto is on my bucket list because, to me, it always seemed like a real high-class type of dish. If you think about nurturing a cup of pasta for an hour, it must be something really special, right? That was my thinking! Proving the point further, for our 3rd anniversary we went to a popular restaurant, Portland City Grill, and what did I order from the fancy menu options? Risotto, of course!

It was absolutely, positively HEAVENLY. Definitely a top-notch meal. That’s when I logged the ingredients and flavors in my head (thanks for the good memory DNA, mom & dad) and decided to replicate it at home. My version was good enough to be served in our 777sf apt, on Target plates, with “silverware” and a paper towel napkin, yet it was far from competing to the original chef’s version.

A few weeks later, when I came home with a nice butternut squash from the farm, I knew I would have many options to use it. Half of it went into the Cozy Chicken & Vegetable Casserole recipe and the other I used for this second risotto attempt. This came out much creamier than I wanted, and I believe it was because I cooked the squash in a pan before putting it in the risotto. The result was the squash cooking down too much and with all the stirring, it started to get “mushy” and hence, became too creamy.

Normally I would always encourage a cook to have the confidence to try altering a recipe if you think it can be done differently or better, but when it comes to risotto, just follow the what the directions say. There’s no award when a risotto comes out  mushy. However, you do get bragging rights when a risotto comes out perfect – to all your friends, family, and co-workers who will forever become impressed with your cooking abilities!!

So the next time you feel like sprucing up your cooking talents, print out this recipe, pick up a butternut squash, bottle of white wine, shallots and arborio rice. Then grab a stool and get ready for a nice hour of hanging over the stove. And remember: success will bring great rewards. Good luck!

 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups chopped peeled butternut squash (into itty-bitty pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the broth remains steaming, but is not simmering.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in squash; cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, salt, pepper; cook for 30 seconds. Add rice; stir until translucent, about 1 minute.
Add wine and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed by the rice, about 1 minute.
Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot broth; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed.
Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until all the liquid has been absorbed, until the rice is tender and creamy, 30 to 40 minutes total. (You may have some broth left.)
Remove from the heat and stir in cheese.
Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of the remaining wine!

Meat Lasagna with Spinach and Béchamal Sauce

In case you couldn’t tell from my last post, today is a cool & cloudy day in my part of Oregon. What better day than today to share my *favorite* comfort food recipe – Lasagna!!

Oh, just looking at the gooey cheese dripping down the sides makes me so happy!

This is an adaption combined from my own recipe and from Giada DeLaurentis‘ lasagna recipe with béchamal sauce, in her cookbook, Everyday Italian. I replaced ground beef with a leaner meat, Elk, and added in a large package of spinach. It is a real crowd-pleaser and is wonderful as a meat dish or as a vegetarian dish (just omit the meat).

Meat Lasagna with Spinach and Béchamal Sauce

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Lasagna:

  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef or Elk meat
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets (I use the “ready to bake” kind)
  • 1 large package of fresh spinach
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Béchamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef (or Elk meat) and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta, eggs, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Combine the béchamel sauce and the tomato sauce together. This will be used as your primary sauce when putting the lasagna layers together.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the meat on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the meat. Spread another 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining béchamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.