Many food lovers welcome the arrival of autumn for some deeper, earthier flavours after a long summer of salads.
Risotto is a star performer when the weather starts to cool down. The northern Italian dish makes a weeknight comfort food favourite or can be elevated to dinner party status with some more luxe ingredients.
Chef Salvatore Pepe shares his recipe for a seasonally-focused risotto showcasing all the golden autumn colours, flavours and textures.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
600g butternut pumpkin, chopped
360g carnaroli rice
1 litre vegetable stock
1 brown onion, finely chopped
12 chestnuts (fresh or canned – available at AFS)
12 sage leaves
- Place the pumpkin on a tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 190C until caramelised and soft.
- If using fresh chestnuts, cut in half, place in a baking dish and roast dry at 200C for 10-12 minutes. When cool, remove the skin and roughly chop. In a frypan, add the hazelnuts and sage, drizzle with olive oil and gently fry until the sage is crisp (about 2 minutes).
- Place the diced onion into a heavy-based saucepan with 40ml olive oil and cook stirring over moderate heat. When lightly browned, add rice and stir over low heat until translucent. Ladle in the hot stock approximately to cover the rice plus 2 more ladles. Cover the pot for 10 minutes on low heat. Add more stock as it’s absorbed.
- After approximately 5 minutes add the pumpkin and the chestnuts, salt to taste, continue stirring for another 3–4 minutes adding a little more stock if necessary. Remove from the stove, making sure that it is not too dry, add more stock if needed to create a loose mix.
- Divide the risotto between the plates, shaking a little to spread the rice, sprinkle the hazelnuts on top and top each plate with sage leaves. Serve immediately.
Vegetable stock from scratch:
In a small pot, combine a celery stick, one carrot, one brown onion (sliced in half), one or two button mushrooms, four peppercorns and some parsley stalks with 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
David Ridge, wine specialist, suggests the 2018 Silex Pinot Gris to match Salvatore’s autumn risotto:
“From the cold south east of SA, even further down than Mt Gambier, this wine is ideal for the risotto dish. It is quite like what you’d find in Italy’s cold, far north Alto Adige where Pinot Grigio (the Italian name for this variety) is native.
The mineral and slight herb character picks up on notes in the dish but it’s the texture, the renowned creaminess of both risotto and the wine, that will sing together”.