Roasted Butternut, Sage, Walnut and Pancetta Risotto

Makes 6

  • 1 medium butternut
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 small dried chillies
  • sea salt and freshly round black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 12 slices of pancetta
  • 100g walnuts
  • bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut butternut and sweet potatoes in half, scoop out the seeds and put to one side. Cut the butternut and sweet potatoes lengthways into 5mm slices. Smash the coriander and chillies with a pinch of salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar. Dust this over the butternut and sweet potatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss around until completely coated. Line up snugly in a roasting tray and bake for around 30 minutes until the flesh and skin are soft to the touch. Now get all your ingredients together and start making you basic risotto.

Remove the butternut and sweet potatoes from the oven and lay your pancetta over it. Mix the butternut seeds, walnuts and sage leaves with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the butternut, sweet potatoes and pancetta and place back in the oven for about 5-10 mins until the pancetta is crisp.

Once the butternut and sweet potatoes have cooled down a little. Shake off the pancetta and walnuts and finely chop the butternut and sweet potatoes —it will be quite mushy but that’s fine. Add this to the risotto at the end of step three. Carry on as normal through the basic recipe, Season to taste and serve with the pancetta, walnuts, sage leaves and butternut seeds sprinkled over the top.

The Basic Risotto Recipe

  • 1.1 litre stock of your choice (chicken, fish or vegetable)
  • knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • bulb of celery, finely chopped
  • 400g Arborio rice
  • 2 glasses of dry white wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 70g butter
  • 115g Parmesan, freshly grated

Step 1: Heat the stock

In a different pan heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions, garlic and celery, and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the veggies have softened, add the rice.

Step 2: Lightly fry the rice 

Once it starts to fry keep stirring it and once it turns slightly translucent add the wine and keep stirring. The alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with just the flavours from the wine.

Step 3. Add the stock

Once the wine is cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer (so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly). Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring the creamy starch out of the rice. Allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If the rice hasn’t cooked properly and you’re out of stock, just add some boiling water.

Step 4. Remove from the heat.

Then add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pot and allow to sit for about two minutes. This is when it becomes creamy—very important. Eat it as soon as possible, while the risotto retains its texture.

Enjoy this recipe with one of South Africa’s best wines, go to

Recipes by Diane Heierli  Photography by C&D Heierli