Heartland Cooks - Gabriele's Pumpkin Risotto

Chef Gabriele Ruggieri shares his recipe for traditional Italian Pumpkin Risotto
Chef Gabriele Ruggieri shares his recipe for traditional Italian Pumpkin Risotto

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Fall is here, but our recipe of the week is from elsewhere in the world, as is this week's Heartland Cook. Gabriele Ruggieri is the general manager of Ciao Ristorante & Enoteca in Cape Girardeau. The swanky restaurant serves a variety of Italian fare. Among the dishes he loves from growing up in Milan, Italy is Pumpkin Risotto. It's a traditional northern Italian cold-weather dish that Ruggieri says shouldn't be rushed.

"Nowadays everything is frozen, or they want things ready, ready, ready. They want to eat in five minutes," said Ruggieri. "That's not how we do in Italy. The Risotto might take you half an hour, but this is not only what you're making to fill yourself up, it's what you're making to express the sensation of 'this is what I'm making for you, it's so good, and it takes time.' It's something you're proud of."


  • 1 ½ Risotto (12 ounces)
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups pumpkin cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion (diced)
  • 7 sprigs fresh Rosemary
  • 1/3 cup (3.5 ounces) Speck (smoked boneless prosciutto)
  • ¼ cup smoked mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh crumbled Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.


Preheat two large sauce pans over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter to each pan allowing butter to melt, but not scorch.

Put half of the diced onion in one pan and the other half in the other pan. Once the onion becomes tender and a translucent gold, add three sprigs of rosemary to each pan.

Next, add the cubed pumpkin to one pan and add a couple ladles full of vegetable stock to the pan. Stir occasionally to make sure the pumpkin cooks evenly. The pumpkin is cooked when it is soft, but not mushy.

In the second pan, pour the dry and just enough vegetable stock to keep the grain from sticking but not enough to submerge it (one ladle full or less).

Once the risotto absorbs all of the butter and begins to stick to the pan add the white wine. Continue to stir constantly until the wine evaporates.

Once the wine has evaporated add more vegetable stock a little at a time and continue to and stir frequently. After 15 minutes, when risotto is fully cooked (al dente) turn off the heat and remove the rosemary sprigs from both of the pans. Add the cooked pumpkin, prosciutto (speck), remaining tablespoon of butter, smoked mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Continue to stir until all ingredients are well combined.

NOTE: Taste the risotto before adding salt. Speck is a salty smoked meat so you do not want to ruin your dish by adding too much salt.

Add fresh ground pepper and garnish with a fried piece of speck and sprig of rosemary.

To make vegetable stock: Start by boiling water in a large pot. Bring temperature down slightly to a slow boil and add one onion, one carrot and one celery stalk. Boil for 45 minutes. Allow stock to cool for one hour before using in risotto.

If you can't find Speck, Gabriele says you can substitute lean bacon to achieve a similar flavor.

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