Risotto. It's a labor of love.
But despite the constant care and attention it needs, it's one of my favorite things to make. I love how versatile it is. Butternut squash risotto, zucchini risotto, mushroom risotto, pumpkin risotto, oh my!
But with any version of it, it always has the same core ingredients and method. Only the veggies and herbs change.
I learned how to make risotto from my dear friend Silvia from Milan, Italy. I shadowed over her in the kitchen as she made a delicious zucchini risotto. Since then, I practiced and practiced until I got it down perfectly. So I really feel as though I've mastered the dish the true, authentic, Italian way.
And because it's pumpkin season, I'm doing it pumpkin style! Pumpkin risotto with fresh thyme and vegan parmesan, topped with Smoky Maple Shiitake "Bacon." This combined with the pumpkin risotto is truly a match made in heaven.
Are you starving now? Let's get to it!
Serves 4-5 people
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, finely diced (plus a pinch of salt to help them sweat)
A small handful of fresh thyme (about 6 sprigs, and more leaves for garnish)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (you can add more at the end if desired)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine (I prefer using a sauvignon blanc)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (you can roast a Hokkaido or sugar pumpkin in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil then mash)
About 2 quarts or 2 liters of water
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 cup grated vegan parmesan and more for garnish (I live in Denmark and use the Naturli brand, but something like Violife parmesan or Follow Your Heart parmesan would also be great)
Smoky Maple Mushroom Bacon:
1 cup or 200g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius.
Toss all "bacon" ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Once the oven is preheated, separate the mushrooms on a pan lined with parchment paper and cook until browned and crisp, about 20 minutes. Once cooked, feel free to break any large pieces into smaller bits. Set aside.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, add in the olive oil, onions, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
Once the onions are cooked, add in the rice. Stir the rice around with the onions and thyme and let sit in the hot pot for 1-2 minutes.
In the meantime, add all of the water to another pot or tea kettle. Bring the water to a boil, then bring the heat down to the lowest setting to keep it warm as you cook the risotto. This will be the water we continuously add throughout the cooking process.
Once the rice has warmed with the onions and seasonings, add in the wine. Stir so that it's evenly incorporated.
Add in the vegetable bouillon and make sure it's mixed in well. Continuously stir so that nothing sticks to the bottom.
Ladle in about 1 cup of water at a time and continuously stir. You know you need to add more water when the liquid in the risotto saucepan is almost fully absorbed. You may or may not use all of the heated water, but continue this process until the rice is soft through the center.
Remove the sprigs of thyme if you can find them, and stir in the butter and parmesan.
Serve topped with the "bacon," some more grated parmesan, a few leaves of fresh thyme, and a crack of black pepper. I also like to have it with a side of buttered & toasted sourdough bread. Enjoy!
Happy cozy fall times,