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Playing Winter-Spiced Butternut Risotto with Sausage, Sage and Walnuts


For the spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen or ground fennel
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 whole bulb garlic
  • Olive oil, for drizzling plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 pound sweet sausage with fennel, casings removed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • A small bunch (about 16) sage leaves
  • About 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Serves: 4 servings


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Combine spice blend in a small bowl and reserve.

Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and transfer to oven to toast. Remove and raise heat to 425°F.

Cut the top off the garlic bulb to expose cloves. Drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Place squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season with about half of the spice blend. Place foil-wrapped garlic and squash in the oven and roast about 40-45 minutes until the garlic is soft and the squash is tender. Cool to handle.

Squeeze garlic cloves from their skins into a small bowl and paste; reserve. Scoop squash flesh from skin and purée in a food processor; reserve.

Bring stock with Parm rind to a simmer in a saucepot over medium heat. Reduce heat and keep warm.

Heat a drizzle of oil, half a turn of the pan, in a round-bottomed pan or a risotto pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown and crumble; remove to plate. Add about 2 tablespoons oil to the pan along with the onions. Stir to soften, 3 minutes, then add rice and season with remaining spice blend. Toast rice a minute or 2 then add wine. Stir to evaporate then add roasted garlic paste and about 1/3 of the stock. Stir vigorously, letting the stock absorb fully before repeating the process until stock is incorporated, about 18 minutes.

In a small pan, melt butter. Add sage leaves and brown butter while sage leaves crisp; remove leaves to paper towel.

To finish risotto, stir in the squash purée, 3/4 of the walnuts, the brown butter, cheese and half of the sage, crumbled.

Serve risotto in shallow bowls garnished with remaining walnuts and crumbled sage.