Roasted Pumpkin Risotto, And The Legacy Of “The Littlest Pumpkin”

Pumpkin Risotto


Many years ago, there was a very special, itty-bitty little pumpkin called “The Littlest Pumpkin”, and he belonged to a very special, itty-bitty three-year-old boy, my son. “The Littlest Pumpkin” was about the size of a small apple, and his unblemished and smooth skin was the vibrant, orange-yellow color of a fall fire; his gorgeous golden-green little stem was just slightly curled and twisted at the end, and he sat ever so proudly, perched on my son’s little table in his room, keeping him company as he slept or played. My son loved “The Littlest Pumpkin” so very much. He was his perfectly portable little friend, and would get picked up by that little twisted stem and taken everywhere that my son went, whether it was from one room to another, or into the car when we’d go out to run errands, and then into his jacket pocket when we would arrive at our destination. My son didn’t go anywhere without his dear, special friend. After all, this was his prized possession, a little “being” with a seemingly living spirit, one that he had chosen with his very own tiny little hands, after much painstakingly searching through the various supermarkets and their pumpkin bins. My son was determined to find the most perfect, tiny little pumpkin he could find to become a part of his beloved seasonal pumpkin collection, or pumpkin “family”, and find him he did, indeed. “The Littlest Pumpkin” was cherished for months to come, and lasted well past the fall season and into the winter and beyond, until he finally softened and became moldy, and we all had to bid a sorrowful goodbye. I can’t imagine that either my son or I will ever forget “The Littlest Pumpkin” and all of the joy that he brought to us, and the warm affinity he created for all pumpkins from that day forward.

Pumpkin Risotto

If my now fifteen-year-old son knew I was recounting the memory of “The Littlest Pumpkin” publicly, he’d have a right heart attack, I fear. Though he hasn’t “collected” a pumpkin family for many, many years now, and he and I no longer go from store to store looking for the perfect pumpkins to bring home anymore (let me pause to wipe away the tears!), he still has an affinity, as we all do, for these whimsical squashes. Prior to having “The Littlest Pumpkin” come into our lives, I had never thought of pumpkins in a kindred sort of way; but seeing the attachment my son had to all of his pumpkins, and to this one in particular, it created in me affection for their unique, rustic beauty. Now, my husband and I go out each year, just the two of us, and hand-pick the perfect orange orbs to bring back to the house to keep on display, cook with, and also carve happy little faces into. Scooped out pumpkin seeds are sprinkled with oil and sea salt and roasted, joyfully nibbled on as an evening snack; and the lightly sweet flesh of the sugar pumpkin is added into hearty soups that fill and warm, or roasted to add into a savory-sweet, creamy risotto that is such a comfort on a cool evening. Pumpkins are still very adored in our home.

Pumpkin Risotto

Though “The Littlest Pumpkin” probably never knew it, his presence created fond memories of childhood in the fall; he even inspired a little boy to develop into a young man that has an interest in nurturing something from a seedling to its season of fruition. Our son, though not so much the “collector” anymore, has instead taken to planting his own small pumpkin patch over the past couple of years, successfully raising a few pumpkins during each season for us to proudly display. These autumn beauties sprout up from the very seeds that he saves of the previous year’s pumpkins. “The Littlest Pumpkin” established a gold standard for all the pumpkins that followed to be measured against, one that I still secretly use today when I go to choose a pumpkin of the itty bitty variety. And though we were never able to find another little pumpkin quite like “The Littlest Pumpkin”, his legacy continues as he serves as the precious symbol of all of the warmth, love and family time that the fall brings into our lives; and of the innocent, precious companionships of childhood.

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


Pumpkin Risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto with Sweet Italian Sausage, Apples and Gruyere
Print this recipe

(Serves about 4)


1 small sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced to ½” cubes
2 medium golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced to ½” cubes
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter, divided use
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio Rice
½ cups white wine
4 cups chicken stock, very hot
2 sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed and browned
¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
¼ cup shaved Parmesan Cheese
4 leaves fresh sage, chopped


-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and drizzle it with a little olive oil.

-In a medium bowl, toss together the cubed pumpkin and the apples with the pumpkin pie spice, salt, pepper, honey and 2 tablespoon of the olive oil, and turn them out onto the foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer; place them into the oven to roast for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown, stirring them a bit about halfway through the roasting to prevent them from burning on the bottom (don’t worry if the apples begin to break down); set aside.

-While the pumpkin and apples roast, begin the risotto by preheating a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium/medium-high heat; once hot, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan to melt together, and then add the chopped onion and sweat for about 2 minutes until translucent; next, add the Arborio rice and gently stir, making sure to coat all the rice grains in the butter/oil for about a minute or two; next, add the white wine to the rice and onions (careful if cooking with flame), and give a gentle stir; allow the wine to reduce until almost absorbed, but not quite completely; next, begin adding the hot chicken stock to the rice mixture, about ½ cup to ¾ cup at a time (about 1 to 1 ½ ladles), stirring gently to incorporate and allowing the rice to slowly absorb the stock (adjust your flame if necessary, so the rice is at a gentle simmer, not bubbling too harshly, evaporating the stock too quickly); once this first increment of stock is mostly absorbed (roughly 3 minutes), add another ½ cup – ¾ cup of stock, stirring and allowing it to almost absorb, repeating this process until the rice is soft and creamy, but not mushy—roughly 23 minutes or so, total (you don’t have to stand over the risotto guarding it the entire time, just don’t walk away for too long as the stock can absorb fairly quickly).

-To finish the risotto and serve, turn the heat off from under the pan; add in the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated Gruyere, the shaved parmesan, the browned sweet Italian sausage, the roasted pumpkin and apples, and about ½ of the chopped sage; gently fold all ingredients together in the pan, and spoon generous portions of the risotto into bowls, and serve immediately, garnishing each serving with an additional sprinkle of the sage, and an additional sprinkle of cheese, if desired.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • julia October 26, 2012, 5:30 pm

    I love risotto and this roasted pumpkin added in looks so good. Can’t wait to try it out!

  • Logan October 31, 2012, 6:07 pm

    This is the most delicious risotto I have ever tasted!!!! I had to make a double batch because I simply could not stop eating it! As always, a wonderful recipe. Thank you!!!!

    • The Cozy Apron November 1, 2012, 6:40 am

      Hi Logan, so great to hear from you my friend! There’s just something so comforting about risotto, isn’t there? I’m so glad you had a happy belly after giving this particular recipe a try!

  • Michele November 13, 2012, 6:08 pm

    I made this dish tonight and it was incredible!! The flavors were perfect together and melt in your mouth! I have been reading your blog for awhile now and really enjoy your recipes & stories that go along with each one!!

    • The Cozy Apron November 13, 2012, 8:03 pm

      Thank you so much, Michele! I appreciate your kind words, and am so happy that you got some pleasure out of this particularly cozy recipe!

  • Vicky May 23, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Never thought of adding apples to risotto — just brilliant!!! Cannot wait to try making this : )) Just love this recipe and just shared it on my blog in a new series where I share my favorite recipe finds of the week!

    • The Cozy Apron May 23, 2014, 4:04 pm

      Hi Vicky, thank you! And I really appreciate your sharing it with others!

  • Kaitlin September 14, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Hi- I am thinking about making this for a potluck next weekend. I am a vegetarian so I will not be putting the sausage in but I am thinking of substituting the chicken stock with vegetable stock. I am pretty new to cooking a variety of food (and being a vegetarian: 9 months) and was just checking that the vegetable stock will not change the risotto dramatically since I am the only vegetarian attending the party. The recipe and pictures sound and look so good that I would really love to make it.

    • The Cozy Apron September 14, 2014, 6:50 pm

      Hi Kaitlin, welcome to cooking—I’m thrilled to have you stop by the site to pick up a recipe or two! OK, so here’s the thing: you’d have no issue at all with substituting veggie stock for the chicken, or leaving out the sausage in order to make this dish vegetarian—it’s a perfect pick. However, my concern is that you want to make it for a potluck. A risotto is best eaten immediately, as soon as it’s prepared. At that stage, it’s creamy and fresh; but once it sits for a while, the starches turn it very thick. You can certainly “revive” a risotto by heating it from a cold state and adding more stock to it to thin it once again; but if I, personally, were preparing something for a potluck, I would not choose risotto. Make this for yourself (or loved ones) to eat as a fresh meal, but perhaps a different recipe for a potluck? I’d be more than happy to help you choose a different recipe if you’d like—please let me know!

      • Kaitlin September 16, 2014, 9:51 am

        Hi! Thank you for your response and all the information. I worried about the same thing. Any other time I have made risotto I had served it immediately. The potluck has to be fall related..I will keep looking but I will definitely make this recipe soon!

  • Cassie Dowling October 22, 2014, 10:31 am

    We loved your pumpkin risotto pizza so much we featured it on our 13 Best Pumpkin Goodies to Serve at Your Wedding blog post! I also loved reading about your story behind the “little pumpkin!”

    In the blog post we wrote, we are also doing a pumpkin recipe contest. Even though we featured your recipe as kind of “inspiration” for other contestants, feel free to also enter!

    Thanks again for such an amazing recipe! So creative and scrumptious!

  • The Cozy Apron October 23, 2014, 3:06 pm

    Hi Cassie, thanks for sharing the recipe for the risotto! Glad you found it inspirational!

  • Tara November 19, 2014, 6:53 pm

    I have some pumpkin puree from a pumpkin I grew. Do you think pumpkin puree would work?

  • Brittani November 22, 2015, 10:51 am

    Does it say when and how to cook the sausage?

    • The Cozy Apron November 22, 2015, 11:07 am

      Hi Brittani, you would cook the sausage prior to getting your ingredients together, as it should be cooked when you add it into the risotto. So to do that, remove the casings from the sausage (as per the recipe), and brown it in a hot pan until there’s no pink to it; then you’re good to go!

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