I ate at two restaurants in Rome earlier this summer that claimed to be built on the very spot where Julius Caesar was killed, and visited two tourist attractions that claimed the same thing. It makes a great story to print on a menu, and they each had some historical perspective to back up the claim. Of course, the restaurants are modern buildings now with only a small trace of their ancient ancestry, but the food at each one was quite good. I made sure to order classic and traditional Roman dishes at each (when in Rome, right?), but when I saw the risotto con fiore di zucca on one menu, I knew I had to order it. I love squash blossoms, and they are an ingredient I just have to sample whenever I see them. I had my fill on a trip to Mexico, and was lucky enough to be in Italy when they were abundantly available. So when I sampled this dish, I knew I would recreate it once I returned home.
It was at a restaurant in Tuscany that I had a risotto with a secret center of creamy cheese, and I decided to incorporate that idea into this recipe to add a nice tang and creaminess to complement the rich rice. The flavors here are subtly earthy with lovely strands of the blossoms stirred through. Many dishes that use squash blossoms like to include saffron for color. (I use it in my pesto). You can do that here too, just soak a pinch of saffron strands in some hot broth and stir that into the risotto during cooking.
- 24 squash blossoms
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 1 ½ cups carnaroli or arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
- 4 Tablespoons whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
- olive oil for drizzling
- Grasp the squash blossoms by the stem and twist to remove the hard stem and the stamen inside, leaving only the blossoms. Place 12 of the blossoms in a blender with 2 cups of the stock and blend until smooth. Pour the blossom mixture and the rest of the stock into a saucepan and heat over low until just simmering.
- Cut the remaining blossoms into thin pieces. I generally pull the leaves apart, stack them up and use scissors to cut them into fine shreds. Set aside.
- Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over low in a large, deep skillet. Add the diced shallots and sauté until soft and glassy, but do not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter and cook for a few minutes until the edges of the rice grains are a little translucent. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely evaporated. Now start adding the stock a big ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition. When each addition has evaporated, add the next ladleful and stir. When almost all the stock has been absorbed, taste the risotto. It should still have a little bite and texture to it, but if it still hard or crisp, keep adding stock until it is al dente. Stir in the squash blossom strips and the grated Parmigiano until combined and melted. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir it through. Season with salt to taste.
- To serve the risotto, scoop a dollop of ricotta (about a Tablespoon; I use a small cookie scoop) onto the center if a rimmed plate or shallow bowl, then spoon the risotto around it. Drizzle with good olive oil and serve immediately.
- The ricotta needs to be at room temperature to melt smoothly into the risotto. You can scoop it out onto the plates and have them waiting before you start making the risotto.