Kabocha Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

Kabocha Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

By Recipe developed for Sur La Table’s Cooking Classes


Makes 4 servings


  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low-sodium

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 (2 pound) Kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon minced sage leaves

  • 4 ounces pancetta cut crosswise ½-inch slices

  • 1 yellow onion, minced

  • ½ cup dry white wine

  • 2 cups Arborio rice or Carnaroli rice

  • ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese


Also known as “golden squash” this Asian variety of winter squash contains a strong yet sweet flavor and moist, fluffy texture that perfectly complements the soft, creamy risotto rice.

Pour the vegetable or chicken broth into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and keep the liquid hot. In case additional liquid is required, fill an additional small saucepan with water and place on the stove over a high heat until boiling. Once boiling, lower heat, cover and keep hot.

Place a large nonstick skillet on the stove over a medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the squash and cook until golden-brown on the outside, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add chopped sage and cook until just starting to become tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the squash to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.

Return the skillet to the stove over a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil in the skillet and when shimmering add the pancetta and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pancetta to a paper-lined plate and set aside.

Using a large, heavy bottom sauce pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil with the butter and place on the stove over medium heat until the butter starts to foam.

Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Lower the stove heat to low, add the rice and cook, stirring until the rice begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and, using a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Once the liquid has been absorbed, increase heat to medium and, using a ladle, add about 1 cup of hot broth to the rice. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat until broth is almost fully absorbed. Add the remaining stock ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more broth only after the previous addition has been absorbed, until the rice begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 16 to 20 minutes.

Adjust the stove heat so the rice simmers rapidly throughout the cooking process. Use boiling water if broth has been used and rice requires more cooking time. The risotto is done when it is creamy and the grains are plump and tender with a slight resistance to the bite. Gently fold in the squash, being careful not to over work. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If risotto is thick, use any leftover broth or water to thin as needed.

To serve: Ladle risotto into 4 warmed shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with pancetta and serve immediately. Alternate recipe: If you wish to include greens to this dish for color and texture, add 3 cups steamed Tuscan kale with leaves sliced crosswise to ¼-inch thick. When the risotto is done, add the kale and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Bold in flavor and texture, Tuscan kale adds a wonderful contrast to the risotto rice.

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