Although it doesn’t seem like that when you look at the thermometer here in Croatia, we are deep in the autumn. The rustling of colorful leaves under our feet, the smell of roasted chestnuts on the streets, long sleeves, the preparation of food preserves for the winter…all these (and many more) are images in my head when I think of the fall.
On one of those images is this delicious Brown Rice Risotto with Pumpkin and Sage. Man, I can smell it already just by looking at these photographs!
Briefly on the History of Risotto
I think we’re all familiar with the fact that Italian people really know how to enjoy their food. And by that, I don’t only think about pizza or tiramisu. However, I still haven’t found out how they can look so slim and fit and eat that many carbohydrates. Really, does anyone know their secret?
For me, risotto is one of the best Italian inventions, the meal with which you can delight every guest, even a beginner in cooking. You just need to follow a few basic rules and prepare them with lots of love and attention.
The history of risotto is inseparably linked with the very beginning of rice cultivation in Italy which dates back to the 13th century. Arabs are the ones who brought rice to Italy and Spain, and because of its mild climate and fertile soil, northern Italy turned out to be ideal for its cultivation. Italy is Europe’s largest rice producer today, and Lombardy and Piedmont in northern Italy are provinces where most of the rice is grown.
One of the most famous risotto today is probably risotto Milanese. Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, gives it this beautiful yellow color. The legend says that risotto Milanese was created accidentally during the construction of the Milan cathedral when a young glassmaker, who was always adding a little bit of saffron when coloring the glass, added it to the risotto eventually. I don’t know whether this story is true, but it’s rather interesting!
The most commonly used rice for preparing risotto is Italian short-grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano. However, I often make my pumpkin risotto with brown rice because its flavor goes so good with pumpkin. Also, brown rice is an excellent choice if you want to include more complex carbohydrates in your diet and stay full for a longer time. Also, fry some sage leaves before adding onion, it will complement the pumpkin flavor beautifully.
If you really want to delight your guests, you can serve brown rice pumpkin risotto in whole-baked pumpkins or squashes. You can even use those that are intended for decoration. Down below I bring you some basic rules and secrets for making the perfect risotto!
Basic Tips for making the Best Risotto Ever
If you were ever wondering how to make perfect risotto, luckily for you, I have the answers you need! Here we go:
- Never rinse rice before cooking risotto because you will wash away the starch which gives risotto creamy consistency.
- Serve risotto immediately. You will notice that the longer your risotto stays in the pan, the drier it will become and the rice will become soggy.
- Cook the risotto so the rice stays al dente meaning neither too soft nor too hard.
- For preparing risotto it is best to use a wide pan with a thicker bottom.
- Personally, I always add some white wine. For me, it’s a compulsory ingredient for an excellent, delicious risotto. There’s an Italian saying that goes something like this: “Rice is born in water and must die in wine.“
- Add your stock gradually and don’t forget to stir the risotto continuously. This way the rice will release starch slowly and make your risotto heavenly creamy!
- The stock must always be hot. If you add cold stock, you’re stopping the rice from cooking properly. You don’t want that, am I right?
- At the very end of cooking for extra creaminess, add some cool butter cubes and grated hard cheese. Most often, Parmesan is added, but I also like to use Pecorino cheese. You can also experiment with other types of cheese.
Delicious Brown Rice Risotto with Pumpkin and Sage
- few sage leaves (fresh or dried)
- 1 yellow onion (middle sized)
- 1 clove garlic
- 180 grams brown rice
- 70 ml dry white wine
- 200 g pumpkin puree
- 600 ml vegetable broth
- 150 g roasted pumpkin cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 15 g butter (add at the end of the cooking)
- 20 g Parmesan cheese
- pinch of black pepper
- Cut the pumpkin into cubes and roast them in the oven or in the pan with some olive oil and butter until they soften. Remove from the pan and put aside.
- Fry a few whole sage leaves in the same pan until they become crisp. Remove from the pan and put on a kitchen towel to drain excess fat.
- Finely chop the onion and the garlic and stir-fry it for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until it becomes translucent. Then add white wine and let it reduce. Keep stirring. Now add pumpkin puree and a couple of ladlefuls of stock. Repeat the process until rice becomes al dente.
- In the meantime add spices. At the end of the cooking add roasted pumpkin cubes. When the risotto is done, add butter and grated Parmesan cheese, stir it and cover with a lid for 5 minutes. Serve the risotto with sage leaves chips and freshly ground black pepper.