Risotto with Butternut Squash, Pancetta and Sage

1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds and strings removed,    and squash cut into dice no larger than 1/2″

1/4 lb. prosciutto, cooked until crisp

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into very thin slices

2 tbsp. scallions, white part only, cut into very thin rounds

Fine sea salt

1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, or 1/2 tbsp. dried sage

1 cup Italian risotto rice, such as carnaroli, vialone, nano, baldo, or arborio

4 cups low-salt, low-fat chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp. whole green peppercorns

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

1. Turn oven on to 350°. Lay the diced squash in a baking dish that can contain it all without overlapping. Pour in 1/2 cup water and put dish in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes. When cool, drain, then set aside.

2.   Pour 4 cups chicken broth into a saucepan and bring it to a steady simmer. Pour oil into a heavy 4–6-quart saucepan, add leeks and scallions, and turn on heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring from time to time, until leeks and scallions are very pale gold. Add half the squash together with some salt and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, turning it from time to time. Add sage and stir all the ingredients together. Add rice, turning it to coat well. Add half the wine, steadily stir the rice, and when all the wine has bubbled away, add the remaining half. Continue stirring to keep rice moving away from bottom and sides of pan.

3. Add a ladleful or two of the simmering broth. Stir constantly, adding simmering broth by the ladleful whenever the rice begins to dry out, threatening to stick to the pan. In about 15 minutes, when the rice is still hard and chalky to the bite, stir in the remaining squash. Continue to cook, stirring steadily and replenishing the broth when necessary, until rice has lost its chalky consistency and is tender, but still firm, to the bite. Do not let rice dry out completely when you are near the end, keeping its final consistency loose and flowing.

4. Crumble the reserved prosciutto, stirring it quickly into the risotto. Add green peppercorns and grated pecorino. Remove pan from heat and stir vigorously. Taste and correct for seasoning. Serve at once.

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