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seasonal recipe

Recipe for butternut squash risotto with crispy sage

Sally Pasley Vargas for the Boston Globe

Serves 4

Paying attention to two critical ingredients — rice and stock — is the secret to all good risotti. Italian rice like arborio and carnaroli absorb liquid slowly while releasing starch into the pan to create the creamy consistency that makes this dish so appealing. The other key ingredient is stock. If this is a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock. A well-seasoned homemade chicken stock will guarantee lots of flavor too. Serve the risotto as soon as it is ready.

3tablespoons olive oil
16to 20 whole sage leaves
½butternut squash (1 pound peeled), cut into ¼-inch dice
Salt and pepper, to taste
4to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2tablespoons butter
1tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1onion, finely diced
2cups arborio or carnaroli rice
½cup white wine
2teaspoons finely chopped lemon rind
1cup grated Parmesan
Extra fresh sage leaves, chopped (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Place a paper towel on a plate next to the stove.

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2. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the whole sage leaves, a few at a time, and cook for 4 to 6 seconds, or until crisp. Remove with a fork and set on the paper towel. Leave the oil in the pan to cool.

3. On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the squash and toss it with the sage-scented oil in the skillet. Spread the squash in an even layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender.

4. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a boil. Taste and add more salt, if you like.

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5. In a 4-quart heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped sage and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until onion softens. Add the rice and stir until rice is warm and coated with butter.

6. Add the wine, 1 cup of hot stock, and the lemon rind. Adjust the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue to cook and stir, adding the stock a ladleful at a time, and waiting each time until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more. After 18 to 20 minutes, the rice should be tender and the grains surrounded by a creamy liquid.

7. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and squash. Ladle into wide bowls and top with crispy sage leaves.

Sally Pasley Vargas

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