risotto with butternut squash and stinky cheese

We were inspired by Lidia on one of her PBS broadcasts focusing on Northern Italy. She did a squash risotto and also some dishes with fontina, a famous product of Val d'Aosto up on the Northwestern border of Italy against the Alps. We'd been to Aosta and liked it. Even bought a can of the melted fonduta cheese for fondue, which we saved for a special occasion that never arrived. Fontina Val d'Aosta found tis way into our hearts with pizzocheri which we make regularly. We'd had some disappointing experience with squash risotto and never tried it again, but it was time to give it another shot bolstered by Lidia's track record.

bob had in mind some kind of risotto with fontina cheese, since it had been decades since his early days when he had tried a cubed cheese risotto, who knows why. Ani picked up some recipe ready butternut squash chunks in Trader Joes and had Lidia in mind, and bob's inability to remember details confused the two, thinking perhaps both ingredients had been in that dish. A little googling proved this was not Lidia's combination. However, based on our past experience butternut squash risotto needed a little bam factor to kick it up a notch, so we went ahead with both ingredients.

We'd also picked up 2 lbs of mussels at Wegmans. We'd already tried Ina Garten's mussel recipe successfully in the past so we decided to repeat. The menu was set. Too bad the mussels got left at Wegmans when we got out our cloth supermarket bags to stuff the purchases in after the cashier had stashed the mussels in a plastic bag and then forgot about them. Another round trip 20 minutes in each direction delayed our late Sunday afternoon kitchen experience following a long day since our late morning brunch with a friend.

With only two dishes and two cooks, things went smoothly in the kitchen. A little white wine sipping kept us going till plating. We did the mussels first, soaking up the terrific sauce with our whole wheat rolls. Then the risotto. Oops, all those neat little quarter inch cubes of fontina we'd left sitting on top until we were ready to serve had just relaxed into a fused mess, but stirring up the risotto gave it a real cheesy texture. Excellent consistency. Spectacular taste. Another success!

Since arborio rice is a somewhat refined rice product, we'd been doing it more infrequently in recent years in our new century nutrition awareness state, but nothing "whole grain" can compete with the creamy consistency of risotto. We went with 3/4 c instead of the modest 1/2 c of late (it had always been 1 c last century) since the amount of squash seemed to demand at least that much. This would easily feed 4 adults healthy portions, so we had a few leftover portions for another meal this time.


3/4 c arborio rice
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion (we had half a big onion left over)
1/2 small leek
2 stalks celery
1 c good white wine
1 vegetable broth cube
1 lb 4 oz chunks of butternut squash, preferably recipe ready
2 T butter
1/3 c parmigiano
2 T chopped fresh parsley
0.17 lb fontina val d'aosto cubed into 1/4 inch cubes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
more parmigiano at the table.


  1. Start a teapot with at least 4 c water boiling and then reduce heat when it boils so it is ready for addition half a cup at a time later on.
  2. Clean up the onion, leek and celery and cut into pieces to more easily food process in the food processor. Shred it all up together.
  3. Sauté this stuff in olive oil until softened, a few minutes.
  4. Meanwhile microwave the squash with a little water for about 8 minutes to soften. Keep warm.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice and let it soak up the veggie mash flavor stirring it around a bit.
  6. Then add the wine, stir it up and let the wine evaporate down a bit.
  7. Add a cup of boiling water and the chopped up veggie broth cube and stir around and coninue on low heat occasionally adding a half cup of the boiling water as needed.
  8. Mash up about 4 chunks of squash to stir into the risotto mixture as it cooks.
  9. After about 10 minutes stir in the rest of the squash.
  10. After about 18-20 minutes of the water phase, the rice should be ready. Turn off the heat while there is still a bit of extra liquid left.
  11. Add in the butter divided up into slices and parsley and stir.
  12. Stir in the parmigiano. Toss in the fontina cubes on top, cover and let sit 5-10 minutes.
  13. Stir it up when ready to serve.
  14. Add extra parmigiano and fresh pepper at the table.


  1. Rice and butternut squash by Lidia. No fontina.
  2. Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Mussels in White Wne.
  3. Fontina val d'aosta is pretty strong smelling, hence the stinky cheese in the recipe title.
  4. Illustrations available.
risottosquash.htm: 22-jan-2012 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]