07 November 2013

I Heart Cooking Club - Donna Hay In Season

This week, the I Heart Cooking Club is concentrating on ingredients that are 'in season' where ever we are in the world. Well, here in New England the potato crop is mounded up in cool storage for the winter. It's getting colder by the day and we are settling in for warm 'stick to your ribs' suppers. Potatoes will be getting full treatment in the weeks and months ahead.

               Last night, sweet potatoes got the royal treatment in a beautiful Italian supper.

One classic dish that makes its way into my kitchen at this time of year is risotto. With little cubes of sweet potato and some jazzy bits of pancetta and crispy sage leaves, Donna Hay has tempted me to make her version of this Italian classic. It fits beautifully with this week's theme, as my pantry drawer is filled with both sweet and white potatoes and I have a sage bush out the back door that must have its branches snipped before the hard frosts finally 'do it in' for the season.

So ... here's Donna's take ... with my spin on things. I did change her recipe a bit, as I am a complete brat about my risotto. Donna Hay wants you to bake the risotto with all the chicken stock added at one time. I just can't bring myself to not cook the risotto on top of the stove, as I really think that the stirring process frees up the creamy starches in the rice grains far better than a sedentary baking method. I also added the shallot and white wine into the beginning preparation of pan. Building the bank of flavour for the arborio to absorb is a big thing for me when making risotto, so I couldn't let go of that step. Finally, I nixed the final drizzle of butter because I'd opted to use the pancetta fat at the beginning of the cooking process ... and let's be serious... I don't need that much more fat in my dinner.

This was a killer batch of risotto ... little sweet bites of potato, crunchy hits of sage and pancetta, and all that cheesy creaminess of the rice ... Fall perfection! Donna Hay has a nice collection of flavours here ... we gobbled the risotto with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and glasses of spicy light Gewurtztraminer wine. With the fire going in the stove and the candles lit, it was a cozy night in the grey cottage last evening!

Donna Hay’s Pancetta, Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto


1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus a couple more teaspoons for other use
4 - 6 slices pancetta, cut to slivers about ½ inch wide
2 tsp. butter
¼ c. fresh perfect sage leaves
1 shallot, minced
1½ c. Arborio rice
½ c. white wine
4 c. warm chicken stock
⅔ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper
melted butter for drizzling


  1. Preheat the oven to 365° F. Toss the prepared sweet potato with the tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Plop on a cookie sheet and roast for about 25 minutes – until the pieces are softened and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Use a small fry pan to brown the pancetta slivers until crisping at the edges and some of the fat is rendered out.
  3. Remove the pancetta slivers to a plate and add the butter to the pancetta fat that remains in the fry pan.
  4. When the fat bubbles, add the sage leaves and ‘frizzle’ them to crispy golden edges. Remove them to the plate with the pancetta.
  5. Scrape the butter and pancetta fat to the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the shallots, cooking them to a soft white sweaty shine.
  6. Add the Arborio and toss a couple minutes to toast and coat with the shallot juices and the fats.
  7. Add the white wine and stir it in well, letting the rice absorb almost all of it.
  8. Then, begin adding the warm stock, stirring frequently.
  9. As the stock is almost completely absorbed, add more stock – a soup ladle at a time until  almost all the stock has been used. Then … begin tasting to judge the ‘bite’ of the rice. Add the salt and black pepper, to taste.
  10. When you like the consistency of the rice, stir in the Parmesan cheese to melt it.
  11. Toss in the sweet potato, trying to keep the cubes intact.
  12. Turn the risotto into a warm bowl and sprinkle the pancetta and sage over top.
  13. If you like, drizzle a bit of melted butter over all and serve piping hot.

Now it's time to see what others in IHCC have contributed to this week's 'In Season' challenge! 
Head on over to I Heart Cooking Club to see what's what! Then, head out to your local farmers market and pick up some of the best of what's in season in your neck of the woods! Enjoy!


  1. Funny I made risotto last night too. Mushroom with seared sea scallops on the side. I'm with you. Must make risotto on the stovetop to get the perfect creamy texture, and excepting the cheese, fats go in first. Trying your latest pork recipe tonight!

  2. risotto is a favourite of mine too susan. i have baked it in the oven but to get the prized creaminess i agree it must be cooked slowly on the stove top.

  3. Looks exceedingly wonderful. I am torn about the oven risotto bit, sometimes I like the ease of it and it is tasty and "good enough" to satisfy that craving. Other times, I like to stir and stir and stir. This recipe looks delicious, nice photos!

  4. oooh, the sage looks so wonderful in that risotto, it looks like a stained glass window... beautiful x

  5. I love the flavors in this..this is def. one I would try

  6. Susan, I've never tried to make risotto before, but this dish has me headed to the store for the rice!

  7. I made this dish too. Maybe I'm a bit of a brat as well--it didn't sit well with me to bake the risotto. I did, but honestly I'd rather stand there and stir. Perhaps I'm more of a control freak than a brat?

    It was rather surprising that the texture turned out as well as it did (it was a bit overdone in my opinion, though).

    Anyway, I like the wine idea. While I was eating the risotto (which was really good), I thought it needed some acidity. I'm used to using wine in risotto.

  8. I just came from Michelle's and admired her dish and here you are with a similar one. You two inspire me.

  9. Beautiful dish and the flavour combination sounds perfect. I've never baked risotto but seeing all of Donna Hay's recipes, I'm tempted to try it at least once.

  10. Susan, this is such a sensational combo of ingredients - sweet potato, sage, pancetta - I can't wait to try this. I'm with you though, I couldn't bring myself to bake risotto in the oven. Quite apart from the fact that all that stirring is what lends risotto its wonderful creaminess and "mouthfeel", I actually love the act of just standing and stirring. I would feel cheated if I missed out on that. I would also kick start the process with the shallots and wine as you did - it's what I do, and I wouldn't be able to let go of it either.

  11. This looks delicious! I should really try making risotto one of these days! Using homegrown herbs always makes the dish extra homey special!

  12. Wonderful flavours. The only time I made risotto, I baked it in the oven. But will try it on t he stove top the next time round.

  13. I love this one Susan, it may be spring here & coming in to summer but I could scoff a whole plate full of that right about now…heavenly comfort food. And a little pancetta & crispy sage just top it off perfectly :)

  14. Susan, I love the way you describe your dish- killer batch of risotto! So funny :) I have never tasted risotto, yours looks so delicious! I will buy and cook soon.

  15. I keep going back and forth on making one of Donna's baked risottos for the same reason--love the ease but I like making it on the stove top too--the stirring is my "zen" time. ;-) Love the combination of flavors and ingredients in this--so perfect for fall.

  16. I have a method for risotto that is very similar to yours and I agree with all of your changes. I think this looks like a sensational and very season risotto! I love all the sage sprinkled on top of the final dish. I think sage is such an underrated herb and I really want to start using it in more dishes. Very beautiful!


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