My cravings for comfort food always seem to hit the hardest during the months of early November to late February. I tend to attribute it to the weather and my desire to stay inside, cozy up with blankets, a glass (or two) of red wine and usually, a big bowl of risotto. Growing up in an Italian household, risotto was a specialty in our kitchen. What began as plain ol’ rice would eventually turn into luscious, hearty, al-dente pieces of deliciousness tossed with butter, herbs, tomatoes and parmesan. Then, all the leftovers would be covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried to make Arancini, traditional Sicilian rice balls. Totally #normal.
Recently, when I told my roommates I wanted to make risotto, they both seemed eager to try my take on what one called, “fancy rice.” As we stood stirring the rice with a glass of wine in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, my friend confessed, “I’m so confused. What exactly is risotto? How do you make it a meal?” I giggled and pointed to the sweet potatoes roasting in the oven, the smell of crispy and spiced starch filling our apartment “That’s what makes it a meal,” I replied.
Since sweet potatoes are currently in-season, I figured they’d roast up perfectly for a bowl of risotto. I added in a few handfuls of leafy spinach (get your greens!!), plenty of rosemary and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese. To my roomate’s surprise, the finished product was so much more than just “fancy rice”. What appeared before everyone was a bowl full of rich and buttery (thank you, brown butter) comfort food. It was slightly spiced from the nutmeg and paprika with a hint of woodsy flavor from all the chopped rosemary. The parmesan added a sharp bite and the sweet potatoes were hearty enough to take this dinner from plain ol’ rice to spectacular-can’t-get-enough-of-this-Wednesday-night-dinner. Let’s just say, I served myself one plate for dinner, another for lunch the next day and another for lunch the following day. It was simply that good.
Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto: Recipe slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is (Serves 4-5)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 shallots, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice (original recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup, I made it 2 so we’d have plenty of leftovers)
- 1 1/3 cups dry white wine
- 1 container (around 6 cups) vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 bag spinach
- 2 tablespoons brown butter (see note below)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the chopped sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and smoked paprika, tossing well to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, until edges begin to brown and the potatoes are nice and crispy. Remove and mash – using either a blender, food processor, potato masher or spoon. For this recipe, I used two wooden spoons. Set aside.
Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add the vegetable stock. Heat until hot. If it begins to boil, turn it down so it’s no longer boiling.
Next, heat a larger saucepan over medium heat. Add in the remaining olive oil and butter, then add the shallots with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft, then add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Increase heat slightly and add rice, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring 2-3 times until the rice is translucent and begins to toast. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the wine. Continue to stir as the rice absorbs the wine. When most of the wine is absorbed, add in about 1/3 of the warm stock. Repeat the process (add stock, let rice absorb stock, add more stock, etc) stirring until the stock is all absorbed, then add another 1/3 cup. Repeat until all the stock is used and the rice is cooked to your liking. This process can take anywhere from 25 – 35 minutes, depending on how al-dente you prefer your rice.
Then, reduce the heat to low and stir in the mashed sweet potato puree until fully absorbed. Stir in the parmesan cheese, brown butter, spinach and rosemary, mixing to combine.
Serve immediately – garnish with more parmesan and herbs if desired.
If you’ve never made brown butter before, here’s a step-by-step guide. Hint: it’s easier and more delicious than it sounds.