Pumpkin-Shiitake Risotto with Pancetta and Pignoli Nuts

Recently I was looking around online for a recipe to use up some left over pumpkin puree and I found this. The name intrigued me. Pumpkin and Shiitake? Meh…I wasn’t sure about it.  But then as I read down the list of ingredients I knew that I had to make this and soon. And am I glad that I did! It was perfect. Crunchy pignoli nuts, creamy rice, hints of pancetta, onion and pumpkin and just a bit of tang from the mascarpone (which I doubled).  I had a double serving.

Many people think that risotto is difficult to make or easy to mess up. Lies. You can’t just let it sit on the stove but all that it takes really is attention and stirring. If you haven’t ever tried to make risotto at home I urge you to do so.  There’s almost no prep involved either-just chop up an onion and some mushrooms tops and that’ s about it. Easy peasy.

Risotto is like mashed potatoes. Some like it looser, some like it dryer. I prefer it looser and for to spread a bit when it’s spooned out. If you prefer it dryer continue to cook past when the liquid is absorbed. Be sure to not over cook it though-you do want it to be slightly toothy in the interior of the grain but creamy on the outside. Best to taste as you go.


Pumpkin-Shiitake Risotto with Pancetta and Pignoli Nuts


  • 3 cups no salt added chicken stock (I used the stock I made a few weeks ago)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4ozs pancetta, diced large
  • 2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, chopped
  • 1&1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or put through a press
  • 1 cup Arborio rice, uncooked
  • 1 tsp fresh sage, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 tbsp mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp pignoli nuts
  • 2 tbsp scallions, chipped small


  1. In a small sauce pan bring stock and water to a simmer. Keep it warm over low heat.
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook about 7 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic and cook about 5-8 minutes or until tender. Add the rice and sage, cook, stirring for a minute. Add the wine, scrape and brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, and cook until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Add 1 cup warm stock and, stirring continuously, cook until it’s almost entirely absorbed. Repeat with all of the stock.  You can use extra water if needed. About 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, add the pumpkin and mascarpone and stir to evenly distribute.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Spoon 1 cup risotto into 4 bowls (warm them so that the risotto doesn’t seize) and top with pignolis and chives.

Note: do not use pumpkin pie filling.

Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2012

Serves 4 (or 2 of me 🙂 as a main dish or more as a side dish.



Mushroom and Pea Risotto

A bowl of risotto on a chilly rainy night is so warming. Since I love mushrooms and peas and had both on hand I decided to put them together in this dish and it came out beautifully! I used Shitake but you could easily sub with Porcini too. The bit of white wine adds an extra layer of flavor, as does the broth since the dried mushrooms are reconstituted in it and then added to the risotto to cook it.  You could serve this either as an appetizer or as a main course, depending on the portion size.  It doubles easily. The recipe below made 2 main course servings or 4-6 appetizer servings.


Mushroom and Pea Risotto

  • 3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 oz dried Shitake or Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1/8 cup (1/4 stick) unsalted butter plus 1 tbsp separated
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup Abrorio rice
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed or fresh peas
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium-sized sauce pan bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cover and cook until the mushrooms are tender-about 5 minutes. Using a spider remove the mushrooms, shaking off the liquid, to a board and chop roughly to desired size. Keeping the broth in the pan over low heat, add the wine and brandy.

Melt the butter in another large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add a bit of the broth, the mushrooms and garlic and sautee until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Add the rice and 1 cup of broth and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process until the rice is tender and creamy about 30 minutes. Add the tbsp of butter and stir. Mix in the peas and the Parmesan cheese and then add the salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Note: an easy way to defrost the peas:  place one small bowl (large enough to hold all of the peas and room enough to stir them) into another larger bowl.  Pour hot water into the larger bowl so that it surrounds the peas. Stir occasionally. They will defrost in the time it takes to make the risotto above.

For the Parmesan cheese use only freshly grated from a block. A microplane works the best for the finest grate.

Risotto alla fragola (Strawberry Risotto)

If you’re thinking ‘what the……?’ when you read the name of this dish you’re not alone. I thought the same thing when I first read it. Who puts strawberries in risotto? But you know what-it’s GOOD!! If today is the first time you’re hearing about this then today is your lucky day!!!

The original recipe for this came from one of my favorite cookbooks Twelve.  I kept seeing this recipe and I got curiouser and curiouser (yes-like Alice) about it. So I finally made it a few months ago and could’ve kicked myself for waiting so long.  So I made it again last night. How delicious. How unique. It’s a touch onion-y from the shallots cooked in butter, a bit nutty from the parmesan, a bit tart and sweet from the strawberries and the brandy adds an underlying flavor that compliments it all and it’s creamy and yummy.  I’ve adapted it a bit from the original recipe so here we go…..


Risotto alla fragola


  • 3 cups chicken stock or water (try to use stock)
  • 1 1/2 oz butter
  • 1 medium shallot,  chopped very finely
  • 145 g (5oz) or about 6-8 ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered plus 3 more small strawberries (or 2 medium ones) cut into smaller pieces (into 8ths) for garnish
  • 3 tbsp good quality brandy
  • 1/2 lb aborio (risotto) rice
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan plus extra for garnish


  1. Heat the stock in a large saucepan and keep it on a gentle simmer.
  2. Heat half of the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, saute the shallot on low heat until it has softened and then add half of the strawberries. Cook gently for a couple of minutes and then add the brandy.  When it has evaporated add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat all the rice.   Season with salt and pepper and add a ladleful of stock, stirring almost continuously to prevent the rice from sticking.
  3. When the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid add another ladleful and continue stirring.  Make sure you move all of the rice at the bottom of the pan.  Continue stirring and adding stock for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is soft yet firm and the texture is creamy and slightly liquid. 
  4. Add the remaining strawberries, the butter and the parmesan cheese and stir. Ladle into a bowl, top with extra parmesan and a few of the strawberries you set aside for the garnish.
  5. Helpful hints: don’t make this when you will have to stop stirring to attend to something else. Give yourself a full 30 minutes to make this from start to finish. Don’t worry if you have one more or less strawberry, it will still turn out fantastic. It’s pretty simple really.  Just ladle and stir ladle and stir. Fear not the risotto!!!

This recipe was included in a great list of fresh strawberry recipies. See the list from What’s Cookin’ Chicago here.