You know how Superman's only weakness is kryptonite? While I'm not well-versed in superhero lore, I know enough to be pretty sure that there's nothing Superman can do to overcome that substance's power. Whenever the bad guy whips out the kryptonite, you know things are going to get bad. There's no escaping it--kryptonite trumps Superman.
Risotto is my sister's kryptonite.
It was one of the first things that I made back when I really became interested in cooking. Due to its exposure to my little sister's psyche at a relatively young age, she can't get enough of it. At least that’s my theory. It's a perennially requested birthday dish for her and whenever there's a pot of rich, creamy risotto bubbling away on the stove, she can smell it for miles.
I really should've warned the poor kid before making this, though. Rather than stirring together a batch of regular, basic risotto, this time I added portobello mushrooms, asparagus, pancetta, heavy cream, and extra Parmesan. And then stuffed it all in some of the most delicious squash I've ever tasted.
The dangerously cute container of this special risotto is Sweet Dumpling squash. After happening upon it in the grocery store last week, I immediately grabbed some and planned some sort of cheesy, carb-o-licious stuffing. As the earthy filling came together, was topped with panko breadcrumbs, and gently browned inside the squash in the oven, I knew that this was (a) something that would be insanely delicious, and (b) something that you guys would love to know about before Thanksgiving.
Whether you're looking for an interesting side dish, or planning a full-out vegetarian (omitting the pancetta, obviously) main course, this recipe fits so beautifully into any fall menu.
At first I wrote "autumnal menu," but I thought it sounded too snooty coming from someone who stuffs her face with Cheetos while watching Netflix in a Snuggie.
Risotto-Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash
A La Kocinera Original Recipe
4 Sweet Dumpling squashes (you could substitute other kinds of small squash if Sweet Dumpling is unavailable)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup chopped pancetta
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 Portobello mushroom, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 bunch asparagus, woody stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups prepared basic risotto
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick spray.
Cut the tops off the squashes and, using a spoon, scoop out all of the seeds (you may need to remove a bit of the flesh at the top to reach them all). Place the squash, bottoms and tops, in the baking dish and brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil, inside and out, sprinkling with 1 teaspoon salt. Place the squashes in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until fork tender, but not mushy. Set aside.
In a shallow, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the pancetta, garlic, and onion, sautéing until softened and fragrant. Add the mushroom and asparagus, cooking until tender. Finally, add the prepared risotto, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, heavy cream, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings to taste.
Divide the risotto mixture evenly between the four squashes, packing it inside the hollowed-out centers. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese with the panko breadcrumbs. Top each squash with the breadcrumb mixture and dot with pieces of the remaining tablespoon of butter.
Place the filled squashes in the oven again and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the everything is warmed up and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!