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Pumpkin & Feta Risotto (Plus Sweet & Smoky Pepitas!)

Pumpkin week is underway here at The Family Kitchen and I wanted to begin with something a little unexpected. For starters, that meant serving up something savory. It also meant skipping familiar pairings like sage, bacon and walnuts. Not because they aren’t great with pumpkin—they are and I’ll go there later this week!—but because I wanted to play with new flavors. More subtle flavors that allow pumpkin’s distinct, natural sweetness to take the forefront. Which, for a flavor that usually serves as a background, is unexpected.

This risotto is just what I was hoping for. Buttery rice allows lightly caramelized pumpkin to play the starring role. Feta cheese adds additional creaminess and a clean, salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the pumpkin. Simple perfection. And easy to make, too! Risotto has a rep for being fancy but, with a cook time of just about 20 minutes, it’s one of my quick go-to meals!

To make this even easier, roast the pumpkin while you’re watching television the night before you want to make this risotto. Once it cools, cover and store in the fridge. When you start making the risotto, pull the pumpkin out so that it can start moving towards room temp.

When I’m feeling fancy, I garnish this risotto with pepitas (i.e., pumpkin seeds, which you can either buy or dry and roast yourself). If they aren’t already roasted, toss pepitas with a very small amount of oil and salt and throw them in a warm oven until toasted and fragrant. Or, you can go all out with these addictive Sweet & Smoky Pepitas. Make them ahead and store in an airtight container for about a week. Leftovers will become your favorite munchy. Just look!

sweet and smoky pepitas

Of course, garnish is not necessary. Just the clean flavor of a simple risotto combined with the deep sweetness of roasted pumpkin and creamy, salty feta will do you good.

Unexpectedly good.

Pumpkin and Feta Risotto
serves 3-4

1 small pumpkin
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for roasting pumpking
1 c diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 c aborio rice
1/4 c white wine (optional)
6-8 c broth (chicken or veggie)
1/2 c feta cheese
salt and pepper
plain toasted or sweet & smoky pepitas, for garnish (optional)

1. Roast the pumpkin: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the pumpkin into 2″ thick wedges. Toss with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for up to 1 hour. You want the pumpkin to be cooked through and slightly caramelized around the edges, but still a little toothsome. You don’t want it to get mushy when you fold it into the risotto. Cut the roasted pumpkin into 1-2″ pieces and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat stock to a simmer over medium flame. Reduce heat to lowest setting, keeping the broth hot but making sure it doesn’t cook off.

3. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add rice, stirring to make sure that all of the grains get coated with oil, and cook until rice begins to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add wine, if using. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

5. Begin adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir constantly, waiting for each batch of broth to be about 3/4 absorbed before adding the next. (One way to tell if it’s time to add more broth: your spoon should leave a trail that holds for a moment as you drag it across the bottom of the pan.) Risotto is done when the rice is al dente—is should be cooked through but still have a tiny bite. You may not use all of the broth. In fact, towards the end of the cooking process—which should take about 18-20 minutes—start tasting along the way and adding broth in amounts less than a 1/2 cup. Add the pumpkin at the same time as the third or second to last batch of broth so that the flavors incorporate well.

6. Turn off heat. Stir in feta, salt and pepper. When serving, garnish with a little extra crumbled feta and, if you have them, plain toasted or spiced pepitas.

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