There are a lot of pumpkins about in the autumn. Unfortunately most people seem to carve them and then throw them away! Shops and supermarkets start to discount them as autumn progresses. You can make many dishes out of a single large pumpkin.

A single orange pumpkin gives a bowl full of food – here shown next to a lemon for size

A risotto is a traditional rice dish from the North of Italy and is naturally gluten-free. It is versatile and can be easily modified to suit taste and season. Normally risotto uses butter and Grana Padano to give a characteristic creamy smoothness and very often a good quality stock is used to bring out flavour. Here we will provide a meat-free recipe and frighten the purists with a vegan option too.

It being autumn we will use porcini mushrooms to allow us to give a fantastic flavour so that it can be really amazing and meat-free. I love the nuttyness that comes with using Italian short grain brown rice (riso integrale). It takes longer to cook but it is worth the extra time! The recipe works well with a good white risotto rice such as arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano too.

Feeds 4 people

Preparation and cooking takes about an hour and a half (less than an hour if using white rice)


2 onions chopped finely

Around 25g unsalted butter [dairy] / 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil [vegan] for frying

A handful of dried porcini mushrooms set to soak. Ideal to soak in two stages, keeping the second water to add into the dish. Dice the mushrooms when soft.

A cup full of short grain grain rice

A glass of Marsala or white wine

The soft flesh of half a pumpkin diced into roughly 2cm pieces (cut around 1cm if using white rice)

Boiling water for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Around 75g cold unsalted butter diced for mantega and a generous 4 tbsp grated Grana Padano (parmesan) [dairy] / optional chopped parsley [vegan] for completing the dish


  1. Put the dried porcini mushrooms into soak and find a good capacity heavy-bottomed pan for the risotto
  2. Gently fry the onion with the butter [dairy] / oil [vegan] for about 5 minutes until becoming soft and beginning to show a golden edge
  3. Add in the rice and keep stirring to make sure the rice gets coated and hot but does not stick or burn. The onion will continue to gain its golden colour but don’t let it start turning brown
  4. After a few minutes pour in the Marsala or white wine. For this dish a slightly sweet or fortified wine like Marsala works well so you could use Moscato instead or simply a white wine. The rice will give you a fizz or hiss of satisfaction as it combines.
  5. Add in the fairly finely diced mushrooms with the water full of flavour and stir
  6. As the water is evaporating off then add some boiling water to cover the rice and add in the coarse cut pumpkin
  7. Now stir around once a minute and to speed up cooking you can put the lid on, making sure the rice has plenty of liquid to cover it
  8. Keep a regular check on progress, topping up with boiling water
  9. Brown rice may take around 40 minutes of cooking time. White rice may be around 15. Salt and pepper to taste. As the rice starts to look like it is absorbing and cooking, you can check if the grains have white inside. The white centre will almost disappear and it is time to switch off the heat but keep the pan on the stove.
  10. [dairy option] after about a minute take the diced butter from the refrigerator and beat it into the risotto until no butter is visible (mantegare). Add in the parmesan and stir. Let it rest for a few more minutes then serve. You can sprinkle with more parmesan or even finely chopped parsley.
  11. [vegan option] instead of step 10 add in some finely chopped parsley if you want to and serve
  12. Buon appetito!


  1. There is a theory in especially French and Italian cooking of du terroire or dalla localita: things that grow together go together. A sort of localism – stay with seasonal products from the same area. So for this dish the Italian rice which grows in the piemonte/lombardia/veneto regions is paired with wine from the same regions and the fruits of the earth for those regions at the particular time of year. The use of Marsala is therefore not as suited as something like a white wine from Oltrepo Pavese. However as it is a readily available fortified wine that lasts fairly well, it is great for cooking with especially if you don’t drink much wine.
  2. Previously we noted that rice comes with an environmental cost (about 12% of methane emissions come from rice production). It turns out that the vegan recipe above actually works really well with Puy lentils. Cook the lentils until soft and add finely chopped flat leaf parsley just before serving. Completely different and really tasty too!