Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My risotto is pumpkin, bacon and sage risoni

There are a few skills that one needs to master in order to consider themselves a real cook (or at least to establish that you are a better cook than your friends). Like being able to make pasta from scratch, making your own pizza dough, whipping egg whites until they have reached that soft peak or stiff peak stage, cooking your own stock and another thing is being able to cook risotto. I wouldn’t say that risotto is difficult to cook but it can be a challenge to make perfect risotto - you need to be able to manage the cooking process well to get a good outcome.

I have only cooked risotto once. It was done in a wok and I stirred and stirred for hours (well probably just a little over a hour). I added stock one ladle at a time and I wasn’t sure when to stop. I couldn’t really judge when it was done and in the end I just ended up with a gluggy sluggy stuff. It was edible but the beauty of a really good risotto was lost, that lovely rich soft creamy consistency with a just-right doneness, where the rice grains still have a bit of bite and remain separate. That was almost three years ago, I have not made risotto since.

I plan on cooking risotto again one day, it is on my list of dishes that I want to cook. I have a huge list of dishes that I want to cook. It is a moveable feast and risotto keeps moving to the bottom of the list, especially when I discovered risoni and decided that it was the next best thing to risotto. Risoni is rice shaped pasta so it looks like risotto and it’s pretty much fail safe to cook.

Please do not judge my pretend risotto harshly. Can I redeem myself by the fact that it contains bacon and roasted pumpkin? - two things that are individually awesome and also make a good team in this dish.

One day I will try my hand at risotto again, in the meantime I like cooking risoni. 

If you have any helpful tips on how I can perfect the art of risotto I would like to know them. 

Pumpkin, bacon and sage risoni


1 kg pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
100ml olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
2 medium brown onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
175g eye bacon, trimmed and sliced
2 red bird's eye chillies, chopped
2 tbsp sage leaves, chopped
400g risoni
1 litre chicken stock


Preheat oven to 200C. Place pumpkin on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season and roast in the oven until deep golden in colour and soft, about 25 minutes. Remove and reserve. 


While the pumpkin is cooking, heat the rest of the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add onion, garlic, bacon and chilli. Season and cook until onion is soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Add sage and cook for another minute. Stir through risoni and add 750ml of stock. Simmer gently and continue to stir until risoni is al dente and stock has absorbed. Add more stock if necessary. Stir through pumpkin and serve.

VERDICT: It tastes great - the risoni has taken on some of the stock flavour, you can also taste the bacon and hits of chilli. Then you have morsels of sweet roasted pumpkin and sage…..sage! that was freshly picked from my friend Danica’s (of the awesome Nook and Cranny blog for your guide to Perth!) herb garden in her backyard.

I live in a little unit with no balcony so I do not have the space to grow fresh herbs. One day I wanted some sage for a gnocchi dish I was making but I couldn’t but any. I went to numerous shops to no avail. But never fear, I found a solution to my dilemma – I went to Bunnings and bought a little sage plant for around $2, I picked off all the sage and then threw the soil back into the gardens of my complex (costs about the same as buying from the shops!)

My tip for buying herbs – also available from Bunnings if you are really desperate! 


  1. risotto in a wok hey. never seen that before.
    Whenever I make risotto I put arborio rice in first along with heaps of olive oil and whatever is going in first and cook the whole meal slowly. I think thats all the tip I have for today. risotto is pretty easy after cooking it a million times :)

  2. p.s I also live in an apartment with no balcony so I use this for herbs.
    you should get one too!

  3. i don't think you need to worry about not making risotto - your risoni looks pretty darn delicious! the combination of pumpkin, bacon and sage get top "nom nom" points from me. if you would like i can give you a good recipe for cheat's risotto that requires no stirring.

    p.s my little garden feels quite famous having been featured on your blog :)

  4. I've been lucky with risotto, the few times I've made it. You're ahead of me with risoni though - have never cooked with it before and this dish looks great.

    I remember my sister giving me a recipe for an oven-baked risotto that she raved about, which seemed to negate the whole stirring for hours part, I'll see if I can find it.

    How funny about Bunnings saving the day, good thinking!

  5. Janelle, where do you hang that metal basket? I don't have anywhere in my unit to hang it.

    Conor, I have heard about this over-baked risotto business before but I don't know, I would feel like I was cheating. Risoni is very easy to cook, you'll be able to make something great with it!

    Danica, I will have to raid your herb garden even more in the future.

  6. We have something like this...minus the cat