Butternut Squash, Pecorino and Smoked Bacon Risotto.

4 years ago


 The Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup of cubed smoked bacon (pancetta affumicata)
  • 1/2 roasted violin squash (or butternut)
  • 100 gr of aged pecorino cheese (I used an extremely hard, aged pecorino from Rome that was amazingly delicious)
  • a few drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
  • a few tablespoons of exceptionally high quality Balsamic Vinegar Cream (please do not use the watered down “salad dressing”, it is worth the investment in good Balsamic Vinegar…more on this later)

The other ingredients you will need for a basic risotto base are:

  • 1.5 litres of freshly made REAL broth (the kind where you actually boil water with two or three cuts of meat + a carrot, onion, parsley, alloro, a celery stalk and a tomatoe for about an hour so you get a delicious broth)
  • a white onion
  • 400 gr of CANAROLI rice, the king of risottos
  • 60 gr of real butter
  • Real extra virgin olive oil


Ok, before I list the step by step recipe instructions let’s talk a moment about real vs. fake ingredients.  It’s almost like doing a “Is that Real?” article but about food.

I think that you can fake a shirt, but you can’t fake your tastebuds.  I am pretty anti-fat obsessed,  I’m a skinny lady and I like it that way, but while living in Italy I’ve learned that there is no substitute for real and yummy food.  Use real butter, not margarine,  use real broth, not those dissolving cubes, use real parsley and herbs not things that come out of a box and use real Balsamic Vinegar (traditional or a very good substitute).

Real food = real taste .

That is the difference in real Italian cooking in Italy.  Here, it is easier to find real ingredients than it is to find the substitutes! Grocery stores are a fraction of the size that they are in North America.  Somethings just aren’t available in Europe because people don’t buy them, so grocery stores don’t carry them.  Part of the culture here is to seek out the freshest ingredients.


You’ll often hear an Italian say that to make a good plate of pasta al pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce) all you need is good pasta and good tomatoes! And if all else fails top it with the best Parmigiano Reggiano you can find and it will still turn out ok!


In any event, I like to go to the market and buy my ingredients in season from people who know what they are selling. I’ve discovered that I am much more satisfied with what I eat here,  it is filling and because I prepare it myself, the ingredients are delicious and  I appreciate what I am eating so much more.


Ok now for the play by play:


The Recipe
  • Start to boil the broth that you’ve made in advance in a sauce pan.  Broth when added to rice that is cooking must be boiling hot or you will interrupt the rice’s cooking.
  • In a super big and heavy cooking pan, sautee the pancetta affumicata on medium heat until it is crispy but not too crispy.  Transfer the cooked pancetta into your food processor, add in 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar Cream, the pecorino, the roasted squash and two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • In the same big sauce pan that the bacon was fried in, melt half the butter and sautee the finely chopped onion on low heat until it is soft without letting it get brown or burn
  • Up the heat, when you see it’s hotter add in the rice.
  • Toast the rice (this is necessary to preserve the integrity of the Canaroli rice), the toasting allows the rice to maintain it’s flavour throughout the whole cooking process so please don’t skip this step

  • Add in, one ladle at a time the boiling broth

Risotto is definitely not a “set it and forget it” type of meal,  you have to stay beside it, stirring with a wooden spoon and adding ladlefuls of boiling broth to keep cooking the rice.  It is important that it is moist and doesn’t dry out and burn.


  • When the rice is cooked (without over cooking) add in the squash, pecorino, bacon mixture from the food processor, and put the heat on it’s lowest setting. You may wonder “how will I know when it is done cooking?”  the Italian would answer you “taste it!”.  Does it taste good? When it is in your mouth do you think “mmmm I want to keep eating this”? Yes?! Good, that means it’s ready.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of broth if  you see it is a little too dry or thick.
  • Turn off the heat completely after a minute or two and add in the rest of the butter while stirring.



Serve by adding two drops of real, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar on top. Please note,  the people of Modena take their real traditional Balsamic Vinegar VERY seriously, the little bottle I have featured in this post was given to me as a gift by my older sister for the birth of my son, just this little bottle cost over 90 euro ($121 US or $129 Canadian!!!) and it wasn’t imported!  It actually costs that much!  It takes over a decade (actually 15, 25 or 30 or more years) to make this stuff.  You’ve heard of crude oil referred to as “black gold” well in Modena Balsamic Vinegar is “black gold”!

I’ll do a whole separate post explaining Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and all of the non-traditional variations (like the cream version I’ve used for this recipe).  What does Balsamic Vinegar have to do with fashion for new moms?  Lots.

Why, you can get dressed to go to the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Museum in Spilamberto, you can go to a tasting, there are events and  sagre (meaning a whole festa dedicated to one Italian product),  like “Mast Còt“, a weekend dedicated to Balsamic Vinegar by the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Association and Consortium.


And of course looking good on the outside starts with putting good stuff in the inside!

The History

I made this delicious risotto because I had half a leftover roasted “zucca Violina” (violin squash, which is similar to a butternut squash but with a rough skin).

I really like cooking with what is in my fridge, so for this recipe I just modified a basic risotto with what I had available.


Finding Quality Ingredients

The nice thing about living in Italy is that my fridge (when I manage to make it to the market) is always filled with yummy ingredients.  One of the things I noticed in North America is that it is hard to find good quality Italian ingredients at normal grocery stores.  So I did a bit of research and found a North American site that actually carries real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and delivers for free for orders over $100 (US addresses).  Ahalife.com is a website that “curates” their offering, so they carry all things design, and incidentally also carry exceptionally sourced vinegar.  There you have it, I’m not the only one that is connecting food and clothes!

For example you can find on their site, real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar that has been aged a minimum of 15 years for $190, shipping included.

Just to give you an indication of how long this stuff lasts, we’ve had our since our son was born 19 months ago, and there is still a quarter of  the bottle.


The difference between this traditional vinegar and non-traditional vinegar is that the flavor is so intense, and the consistency so thick that just a drop is enough.

If you try this recipe or a modification of it, let me know! Send me the pictures!


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