2 quarts low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, or 1 cup dried mushrooms (preferably porcini) and 2 quarts water
1/4 cupolive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 large pinchsaffron threads
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more as needed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 hr 30 mins
The flavor of saffron, a thin stigma from the saffron crocus flower responsible for the color of paella and risotto Milanese, is so hard to define. Words like “warm,” “exotic,” “unique,” and “seductive” don’t quite capture the essence of this assertive spice. The only way to know what it tastes like is to experience it for yourself. Try this saffron risotto with a little butternut squash added for good, sweet measure.
1Prepare the squash: Peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler. Trim the top and bottom. Cut the neck from the bulb of the squash. Halve each piece lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.
2Place the broth in a medium saucepan over low heat and keep it at a very low simmer. If you’re using dried mushrooms, place the mushrooms and the 2 quarts of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Strain the mushroom broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over another medium saucepan, leaving any sediment behind, and keep at a bare simmer over low heat. (Either save the rehydrated mushrooms for another use, or chop them, season them with salt, and add them to the risotto halfway through the cooking.)
3In a large wide pot or Dutch oven, heat the measured oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, squash, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
4Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the kernels start to crackle, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and saffron and let simmer, stirring often, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 to 4 minutes. Pour a ladleful of the simmering broth over the rice. Let simmer, stirring constantly, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding broth, stirring and letting it absorb, until the rice is al dente, about 20 to 30 minutes (you may not use up all of the broth). Taste as you go for doneness, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
5When the rice is done, remove from heat and stir in the measured Parmesan and parsley. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and Parmesan as needed. Just before serving, loosen the risotto to the desired consistency with a little more broth or hot water and serve immediately. Drizzle each serving with olive oil.