Leek Risotto Recipe with Porcini and Butternut Squash

leek risotto recipe, Porcini, and Butternut Squash

Oh, the romance of risotto, that creamy, northern Italian rice dish savory with wine, stock, vegetables and herbs, the flavoring agents changing with the seasons and your desires! We were to have a quiet, relaxing Saturday night at home, and we had gorgeous, fresh sea scallops on hand from the morning market, as well as leeks and butternut squash. So, our easy but elegant Saturday night at home dinner became Seared Sea Scallops and easy Risotto with Leeks, Butternut Squash and Porcini Mushrooms, stiulating memories of northern Italy!

Risotto was not within my father’s repertoire–his family originated around the Abruzzo-Umbria regions of Italy, and rice grows in northern Italy, in the Piemonte and Friuli regions. The origins of rice in Italy are disputed. Did the Arabs bring rice into Sicily, or did Venetian merchants bring rice from the Levant?

Whatever its origins, rice continues to be grown and harvested in Italy today, primarily in Piemonte, or the Piedmont region. There are three types of rice grown for risotto–Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone, which are all large grain, starchy rices, perfect for cooking into creamy but al dente risotto. Venetians seem to prefer the Vialone rice, and make risottos rich with seafood. The seafood risotto that I enjoyed in Venice contained squid, mussels, and shrimp, white wine, stock, garlic and was finished with a drizzle of olive oil. Risotto is a beloved dish in Venice, in the Friuli region north of Venice, and over to the Adriatic coast, where it often features fish or seafood.

In the Lombardy region, adjacent to the Piedmont region, is beautiful Lago di Como, or Lake Como, which is one of our favorite places in Italy due to its surreal beauty, unusual microclimate and for its gastronomy. In Bellagio on a sunny Autumn day, we enjoyed Risotto ai Porcini, creamy risotto prepared simply with the plentiful Autumn Porcini, delicate and earthy in flavor. One day, we ferried across the Lake from Varenna, our home base on Lake Como, and boarded a bus for a curving, hairpin-turn ride up into the mountainside to lake Lugano, Switzerland. There, we strolled the lakeside promenade among colorful flowers. Then, we selected an outdoor cafe for lunch, where I enjoyed a savory risotto rich with duck, a variety of earthy mushrooms, and topped with a great shard of roasted, glazed pumpkin. In Autumn, Italians often use pumpkin, zucca, in stuffed pastas, in risottos (Risotto alla Zucca), or roasted as a vegetable.

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In Milan (Milano), Risotto alla Milanese is revered for the flavors of beef bone arrow, beef stock, wine and saffron. Risotto alla Piemontese is a simple risotto flavored with meat stock, butter, lots of Parmesan cheese and earthy truffle, another revered Autumnal product in Italy.

According to Lidia Bastianich, risotto only began to appear in American Italian cuisine within the last twenty years or so. Risotto has taken much longer than pasta to gain in American popularity. We have enjoyed the best restaurant preparations of risotto at Chef Todd English’s small Beacon Hill trattoria, Figs. Chef English created a risotto with duck ragu, porcini mushrooms, and caramelized figs–inspirational!

The basic authentic technique for making risotto is to first toast the grains of rice in fat before adding hot stock gradually, stirring continuously to bring out the starch, which creates the creamy texture. It is a labor intensive process that I like to avoid when October temperatures here in St. Petersburg, Florida are still in the 90s. I learned an easy method from Ina Garten that allows the oven to do much of the work, with brief, vigorous stirring toward the end of the cooking time. It yields creamy, al dente, luscious risotto every time.

The following is my recipe for Easy Risotto with Leeks, Porcini, and Butternut Squash, borrowing ina’s technique.

Risotto with Leeks, Porcini, and Butternut Squash

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice (I used Carnaroli this time)
  • 4 cups simmering stock (I used chicken)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 of a large butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 ounces of sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
  • 1/2 ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted by soaking in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes
  • 1 and 1/ cups finely grated pecorino Romano cheese

Method
Soak the dried porcinis in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes, set aside.

In a 5 quart enamel over cast iron Dutch oven, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and sauté the sliced baby Bella mushrooms and the leek for about 4 minutes over medium heat.

In a large saucepan, heat the stock to simmering.
Add the following ingredients to the Dutch oven: rice and 3 cups of stock, along with the leek and mushroom mixture, the drained porcinis, roughly chopped, the porcini liquid, the squash cubes, and the seasonings. Stir to combine and cover with a lid.

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Place in a 350 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Remove the pot from the oven, and add the wine, remaining butter and the cheese, and as much of the remaining hot stock as needed to achieve a creamy but not wet risotto, stirring vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

 

The risotto will become very creamy. Some of the squash will melt into the sauce, but some will remain as soft cubes.

Taste and adjust seasonings, if you wish. Serve hot.

 

Seared Sea Scallops
Serves 4

Sea scallops are light, so in order to have 5 scallops per person, you need roughly 2 pounds of large, 10 count per pound sea scallops. Buy from a trusted vendor, who can tell you when and where the scallops were harvested! You are paying a premium price, and so you do not want to be disappointed by tasteless or off-tasting scallops, which will happen when they are treated with a sodium chloride solution. The scallops that I purchased were harvested in the northeast on Thursday, were flash frozen, no solution, and I purchased them Saturday morning for Saturday evening consumption. They should be sweet, and have a firm, not mushy texture.

Sea scallops are the easiest seafood to prepare! Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a 12 inch, shallow skillet, over medium high heat, and wait until the butter is really sizzling before you add the scallops. Do not crowd them, and do not touch them until they have seared for 3 minutes on side one. Once side one looks properly caramelized, flip them for an additional 3 minutes of searing. Remove them to the plates. Season with just a bit of seat salt and pepper. They should be cooked through, but with good shape and texture, sweet flavor, and lovely caramelization.

The sea scallops were sweet in flavor, and beautifully caramelized. The risotto was creamy, but the grains al dente and holding their shape, flavored with sweet leeks, earthy mushrooms, sweet butternut squash, salty pecorino cheese, and herbaceous sage. The wine is added to the risotto after cooking, so there is a wonderful wine flavor that comes through.

Risotto with Leeks, Porcini, and Butternut Squash
 
Ingredients
  • 1 and ½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice (I used Carnaroli this time)
  • 4 cups simmering stock (I used chicken)
  • ½ cup dry white wine (I used Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
  • ½ of a large butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 ounces of sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
  • ½ ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted by soaking in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes
  • 1 and 1/ cups finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
Also Read:  Yummy Fleur de Sel Caramels Recipe
Instructions
  1. Soak the dried porcinis in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes, set aside.
  2. In a 5 quart enamel over cast iron Dutch oven, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and sauté the sliced baby Bella mushrooms and the leek for about 4 minutes over medium heat.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the stock to simmering.
  4. Add the following ingredients to the Dutch oven: rice and 3 cups of stock, along with the leek and mushroom mixture, the drained porcinis, roughly chopped, the porcini liquid, the squash cubes, and the seasonings. Stir to combine and cover with a lid.
  5. Place in a 350 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Remove the pot from the oven, and add the wine, remaining butter and the cheese, and as much of the remaining hot stock as needed to achieve a creamy but not wet risotto, stirring vigorously for 2-3 minutes.
  7. The risotto will become very creamy. Some of the squash will melt into the sauce, but some will remain as soft cubes.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings, if you wish. Serve hot.

 

Easy but elegant Italian-inspired comfort food. We drank the remainder of the delicious dry Riesling, reminisced about travels in northern Italy, and then enjoyed a movie at home!

Readers, you can use the Comment box below to share your food related travel memories, favorite ways to fix risotto, or your thoughts or experiences about the recipes posted here today. Grazie!

Jennifer - Paleoteam

Jennifer - Paleoteam

Jennifer is an author of few culinary books, mom and a happy housewife passionate about cooking and pastry. I share my recipes and tips through my blog...I hope you enjoy your stay and will find the information and cooking tips I share helpful for your kitchen journey :-).

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