Hot-pink beet risotto and creamy butternut squash soup


These recipes are from David Rocco’s “Dolce Vita” eponymous cookbook. I must admit, I was skeptical before I opened the cover. Rocco is no professional chef, and he is the first to admit it.
But his enthusiasm for Italian food and zest for la dolce vita more than makes up for it. So when I saw his simple recipe for this savoury soup, and I saw that I had all the ingredients on hand, I decided to try it.

Butternut squash soup, or zuppa di zucca

4 tbsp butter; 1 potato, cubed; 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed; salt and pepper; 3 cups vegetable stock; 1/2 cup whipping cream; freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; truffle oil for drizzling.

Adapted directions:

Melt the butter and add the potato, squash, and seasonings. When they’ve slightly caramelized, pour in enough stock to cover the veggies. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes. Now pour into blender and puree. Pour back into pot and add cream and cheese. Drizzle oil in each bowl, and grate Parmesan on top of the soup.

My substitutions:
I made sure the cream was room temperature before adding as I’ve curdled soup before and it ain’t pretty. Also, I roasted chestnuts, chopped them, and put them in the middle of the soup bowls before serving. I was inspired by Didier Leroy’s recipe for honey-roasted chestnut soup. As garnish, I also topped each bowl with a chestnut.

Would I make this again?
Yes, in fact, this week. I’d add more vegetable stock though, as this soup thickened quite quickly.
Grade: Four stars out of five. This soup is flavourful, indulgent, rich, the colour brightens up your table, but it was much too thick. I tried to correct it by adding more stock and cream later on, but it was too late. You might even consider using a smaller potato, and I encourage you to use more stock from the get-go. 


Risotto with beet puree, or risotto con pure di barbabietola

I don’t have kids, but if I ever have a picky eater for a daughter like my girly girl of a sister, I’m convinced this hot pink side dish will do the trick.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tbsp butter; 2 shallots, finely chopped; 2 cups risotto; 1 cup white wine; salt; 4 cups vegetable stock; 2 cups fresh beet juice; freshly grated Parmesan; truffle oil for drizzling.

Adapted directions:
Heat up the olive oil and butter and saute the shallots until see-through. Add the rice and stir until it’s translucent – this won’t take long. Add the white wine. Once it is absorbed, add some salt, lower the heat, and add a ladleful of the vegetable stock. When the rice has absorbed the stock, add some more. Keep going in this fashion. Just before the al-dente stage, add the beet juice. Once it’s absorbed, served with a drizzle of truffle oil and Parmesan.

Would I make this again?
Yes I will, when pairing this side dish with a dominant main dish. In this case, I served the risotto with sauteed chicken with mustard cream sauce. It was a mild, but beautiful addition. Truth be told, it’s more striking in look than it is in taste. When I first saw “beet juice” in the ingredients, I was hesitant, but then I realized I could simply boil my beets, use them in a salad, and then freeze the right amount of juice in a freezer bag until I needed it. This worked perfectly.

My substitutions:

I didn’t make any.

Grade: Four stars out of five
Risotto is finicky – you have to watch it closely on the burner or you will end up with mushy rice. It’s not pretty. But if you’re careful, you can really wow your guests and add a punch of colour.