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Surprising risotto can be baked

The Baltimore Sun

Although I adore risotto, I rarely make it for company as it requires a good deal of cooking at the last minute. I have on occasion prepared it in advance, using various techniques, but at heart I am a fan of making this glorious Italian specialty and eating it soon afterward.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a recipe for baked risotto. The directions called for spreading Arborio rice in a buttered baking dish, covering the grains with hot, simmering stock and melted butter, then placing the pan in the oven until all the liquids were absorbed by the rice. After several attempts, I fine-tuned the technique and was ready to create my own variation.

My version included additions of diced butternut squash, grated Gruyere cheese and fresh rosemary. Crispy sauteed prosciutto strips sprinkled over the risotto were a final garnish. Since this "oven risotto" needed about 40 minutes in a moderate oven, I decided to roast the cubed squash at the same time, and was delighted that both dishes could share the oven so efficiently.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.


Serves 6

3 cups cubed ( 3/4 -inch dice) peeled and seeded butternut squash (see note)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for preparing the pan

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

1 1/2 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips about 1/4 inch wide and 3 inches long

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary plus rosemary sprigs for garnish

Arrange racks at center and lower positions and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Generously butter a 2-quart baking shallow dish. Place the dish on another rimmed baking sheet. Spread the rice in the pan. Place chicken stock and 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan set over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Carefully pour the hot mixture over the rice.

Place the baking sheet with the rice on the center shelf and place the baking sheet with squash on the lower rack in the oven. Cook the rice until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 40 minutes or longer. Remove when done and cover with foil. Roast the squash until soft when pierced with a sharp knife and golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove when done and set aside uncovered.

While rice and squash are in the oven, heat remaining oil in a small skillet over medium high heat and saute the proscuitto strips, stirring often, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove and drain the strips on paper towels.

Remove the foil, and stir the Gruyere cheese and chopped rosemary into the cooked risotto. Then gently stir in the roasted butternut squash. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. (Risotto can be prepared 30 minutes ahead. Keep covered with foil at room temperature.)

To serve, sprinkle prosciutto over risotto and garnish the center with several rosemary sprigs. Serve warm.

Note: Butternut squash can often be purchased already peeled, which is a big timesaver. If you are buying it this way, you'll need between 3/4 and 1 pound of peeled and seeded squash to yield 3 cups.

Per serving: 433 calories, 14 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 50 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 603 milligrams sodium.

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

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