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Fig, Pancetta And Butternut Squash Risotto

serves 2-4

One of our favorite restaurants, Birmingham's Highland's Bar & Grill, makes a butternut squash and fig risotto that is almost dessert-ish. Using that as a jumping-off point, we added the salty pancetta and roasted the butternut squash for more depth.


1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6-8 dried figs, stemmed and diced
3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices pancetta (or 2 pieces bacon), diced
1 small white onion, diced
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated pecorino


prep: 20 minutes
total: 1 hour 15 minutes


baking sheet
medium saucepan
deep, nonstick skillet


1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Prep the butternut squash and cut it into 3-inch pieces. Put the pieces on a baking sheet, season them lightly with salt and pepper, and bake until tender, 30-40 minutes. When they cool, cut them into bite-size pieces.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 cup of the broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the diced figs and simmer until the figs have fattened a little, 3-5 minutes. Remove the figs to a plate and add the rest of the broth and the water the saucepan. Bring to a low, steady simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth hot.

4. Prep the remaining ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it renders most of its fat, 3-5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring often, until they've softened, another 3-5 minutes.

5. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's glossy, 2-4 minutes. Add the white wine, stir, and let it get absorbed by the rice.

6. Add a ladleful of the simmering broth to the rice, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful of the liquid. Repeat this process -- add ladle of liquid, stir occasionally, let rice absorb liquid -- for 15 minutes.

7. Stir in the squash and parsley. Continue to add the liquid, one ladleful at a time. After 5 more minutes, begin tasting the rice. Continue to cook until the rice is tender but still al dente. The mixture should be creamy.

8. Remove the skillet from the heat, and quickly stir in the butter. Add the pecorino and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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