Risotto with Kabocha Squash Leeks and Clams

From Matthew Altizer

2011 Nov/Dec

Kabocha squash is known for its strong yet sweet flavour and its moist, fluffy texture. Roasting it intensifies its sweetness. When cooking clams, discard any that have opened before you cook them, and any that stay closed after cooking.


  • 1/2 lb. kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • olive oil to drizzle
  • 1 lb. clams, scrubbed
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, washed and white part thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 t. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 t. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 c. arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 T. green peppercorns in brine
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375°F. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and roast it on a baking sheet until tender. Reserve. Pour 1/3 c. water into a sauté pan, add the clams, cover and cook over high heat until the clams open, then put them into a bowl. Strain the clam juice from the pan and combine it with the juices in the clam bowl. Chop the clam meat coarsely and reserve.

Heat 8 cups of water in a large pot and keep it warm. Heat a large shallow pan over medium heat, add the olive oil then the leek and onion and cook until they turn slightly golden. Add half the squash, a generous pinch of salt, and the herbs, followed by the rice. Add the wine and stir until it’s been absorbed. Add the clam nectar to the pan and then add a ladleful of hot water. Continue to cook, stirring and adding water by the ladleful whenever the liquid is absorbed, making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. After about 15 minutes, add the remaining squash. Continue to cook, adding liquid, until the rice is tender but still slightly firm to the bite. Make sure the consistency of the risotto is loose and creamy. Remove from the heat and add the clam meat, green peppercorns and cheese. Stir well, check for seasoning and serve immediately. Serves 4.