THE BLOG
01/28/2015 09:53 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

Cooking Off the Cuff: Squash Risotto Bisected

I'd cut the neck of a butternut squash into discs and its belly into wedges, and I'd roasted it all with butter and salt. I thought I might puree some of it and make gnocchi or might turn chunks of it into a squash risotto. Then Jackie came into the kitchen and ate a piece of the roasted squash, all caramelized and salty and fruity. Her view was that it was too good to put into anything, much less mash it up; we should eat it as is. Of course, she was right.

But we needed to eat it with something, and that brought me back to the risotto idea. Most typically, risotto is eaten on its own either as a first course or, nowadays, a main dish, and the ingredients that give a particular risotto its name are to be found incorporated into the rice: A mushroom risotto has mushrooms in it, for instance. Yet there are a few dishes, like osso buco, with which a plainer risotto is served as a partner.

So why not squash? No reason either of us could think of, and I made a couple of portions of the risotto equivalent of vanilla ice cream: not flashy, but the most enduringly alluring of all - a simple saffron risotto, like the one you'd serve with that osso buco but lacking chicken stock and bone marrow (not that much of anyone uses bone marrow in a risotto Milanese these days).

This was a terrific dinner: We could decide which spoonful would contain squash, which risotto and which both together. The two elements were delicious separately, and they constituted a tried and true pairing - who doesn't love squash/pumpkin risotto?

I'll do this kind of thing again soon, next time with mushrooms, probably. They'll get their own herbal flavorings and their own touch of garlic: things that in a traditional mushroom risotto the cook would need to be circumspect about lest they steamrollered the rice.

PHOTO GALLERY
Squash Risotto Bisected