Butternut squash and a whole-grain risotto are hearty match made in heaven. I came across this risotto technique in the wonderful Ideas in Food blog, by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, who are also the authors of the new book Ideas In Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Clarkson Potter). They experimented with soaking arborio rice, then adding hot stock, and cooking it for 6 minutes to yield wonderful, creamy risotto. It’s a great technique to use with whole grains like farro or barley to reduce the cooking time yet enjoy creamy risotto-like results with tender yet al dente grains. In fact, this is now the only I make whole-grain risotto. The plan-ahead involves nothing more than putting the grains in a pot to soak before you go to work in the morning. To make the meal come together even more quickly on a weeknight, peel and cube the squash the night before.
1 cup farro perlato OR pearled barley
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
3 cups vegetable OR chicken stock
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine OR vermouth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated pecorino Romano cheese, divided
Fresh sage sprigs, for garnish
Place farro in a medium bowl or saucepan. Cover with cold water by 1-1/2 inches. Cover and let stand 8-12 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until tender, stirring after 12 minutes.
While squash roasts, drain farro, spread it on a clean kitchen towel and blot it dry.
Place stock in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion, and cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add farro; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until wine is absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in sage. Add hot stock all at once; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a lively simmer for 15-17 minutes or until farro is tender and creamy, stirring occasionally.
Stir in 3 tablespoons cheese and squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon cheese and sage sprigs.
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes