Pumpkin Risotto- The Balducci’s Seasonal Kitchen

From Jason Miller, Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market Corporate Executive Chef

As a corporate chef for a gourmet food market, Chef Jason Miller plans ahead for every season, putting new twists on customer favorites and trying out new recipes.  

And this holiday season is no different, except that it marks the 100th Anniversary of this venerable powerhouse for gourmands. What started in 1916 as a green grocer and produce stand run by "Pop" Balducci, became the first company in New York City to sell premium quality foods with a butcher, deli, fishmonger and greengrocer all in the same store. That first Balducci’s Market created the modern standard of the gourmet market.  

Now an epicurean standard for home cooks and food lovers, Balducci’s has with 3 local stores in Maryland and Virginia. The team at Balducci’s is proud to have retained their reputation for excellence and a passion for creating great food and great flavors for their customers.  

Pumpkin Risotto  

As delicious as delightful in presentation, pumpkin risotto served in mini pumpkins can be the centerpiece of any holiday gathering. In a rush and no time to cook? No problem. These mini pumpkins can be picked up at the prepared foods counter at any area Balducci’s in McLean, Old Town or Bethesda. Chef Jason suggests pairing this dish with Balducci’s Private Label Chardonnay. 


  •  8 mini sugar pumpkins 
  • 1 ¾ cup Arborio rice 
  • 1 quart chicken stock 
  • ¼ cup white wine 
  • ¼ cup white onion, small dice 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 ½ cup pumpkin, pureed 
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • ¼ cup fresh sage leaves 
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • Salt & pepper to taste 


Roast the pumpkins by placing on a sheet tray that has been oiled. Place them in a 350˚ oven until just tender when pierced with a knife. (Don’t overcook or they will fall apart.) Remove from the oven and cool until they can be handled.   

Take each pumpkin and run a paring knife around the top with the stem to create a “hat”. Trim the hat of seeds and clean out the seeds from inside of the pumpkin. Season the interior of the pumpkin shell with salt, pepper and a dash of cinnamon. Set aside.  

To make the risotto, bring the stock to simmer and hold it at a low simmer while making the risotto.  

Mince the garlic and sage. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and coast the rice with the oil and onion mixture. Toast over the heat for 1-2 minutes. 

Deglaze the pan with wine. Stir well to coat the rice and simmer until the liquid is nearly absorbed by the rice. Add the sage and a few ladles of the stock. Stir constantly until the tock in nearly absorbed. Add a few more ladles of stock at a time until the rice is nearly cooked al dente. 

Add the pumpkin puree to he rice. Bring back to a simmer to season to tast with salt and pepper. Spread risotto on sheet pans to cook. Once cool, fill the pumpkin cavities with risotto. Each pumpkin holds about ¾ cup of risotto. Place pumpkin hat on top of the risotto. Once pumpkins are filled, either reheat for serving in a 350˚ oven, or refrigerate.  

Farro Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin and Pepitas

Chef de cuisine Harper McClure’s day job is managing the seasonally changing menus and culinary team at BRABO and BRABO Tasting Room, but he was happy to provide a specially designed appetizer for FRESHFARM Market’s annual fundraiser. The “First at the Feast” cocktail party precedes the Farmland Feast dinner, and cocktail party attendees will have small bites designed by eight of DC's top chefs along with seasonal cocktails concocted by three of DC's best bartenders. Attendees can also taste local wines with listening to Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductee Tom Gray and his band, the Appalachian Flyer.

harperChef Harper McClure

This event is near and dear to Robert Wiedmaier’s heart and his team, and Chef Harper was happy to participate as one of the featured chefs at the event. A big supporter of farm markets, Chef Harper grew up outside Syracuse, and has had experience working on a strawberry field and farm, and exposure to what farm fresh and quality ingredients mean. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of American, Chef McClure started his career in DC at Vidalia, and in addition to working at DC’s Equinox, he appeared on Iron Chef America in 2010. As executive sous chef at Marcel’s, left briefly to open The Federalist before returning to the Wiedmaier team and assuming his current role at BRABO.

Chef Harper was inspired to make a farro risotto as a pairing with seasonal cocktails—this savory dish uses farro, a grain often used as a substitute for pasta or rice.  It has a great chewy quality, a nutty cashew-like flavor and is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C, and E.  If you’ve never tried it, this is your chance!

A few notes: Time starved? Used pre-peeled butternut squash—we’ll be honest—it can stand in but won’t taste as fresh as a peeled winter squash (pumpkin or other variety…) Also, roast the pumpkin while you are making the risotto

Farro Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin and Pepitas

(Makes 4 Entrée Portions)

This is a delicious dish that is savory, nutty and creamy all at the same time—and the pepitas offer a little crunch. Roast the pumpkin while you are making the risotto—it will be ready for tossing and plating when the risotto is done.

For The Risotto:

2 cups Farro

1 onion, minced

6 cups vegetable stock, simmering

2 TBSP canola oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 bunch thyme


  • In a large saucepan, sweat the minced onion in canola over medium heat until translucent; add the farro, season with salt and black pepper and sweat together for a few minutes until the grains are shiny and warmed through
  • Add about 2 cups of hot vegetable stock and bring to a simmer; add the bunch of thyme. Slowly cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the stock is absorbed into the farro; repeat this process until the farro is tender and all the stock is absorbed. Remove the sprigs of thyme and reserve for the risotto for next steps.

 For the Pumpkin:

1 small to medium cooking pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut into 1” chunks (At Brabo, we are using pumpkins grown by Steve Turnage at Northern Neck Farms.) This should yield about 2 ½ cups to 3 cups of chunks

1 Tbsp thyme, picked and chopped

2 Tbsp sage, picked and chopped

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper


  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees; Toss the pumpkin with the chopped herbs, olive oil and seasoning; spread in a single layer on a large sheet tray or roasting pan and cook in the oven until tender and well caramelized (about 30 minutes); make sure to stir every 10 minutes or so to ensure even browning

To Finish the Dish:

2 Tbsp toasted pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)

½ cup mascarpone

¼ cup chives, minced

Warmed vegetable stock, as needed

  • Reheat the risotto in a large saucepan, adjusting consistency with vegetable stock; remove from heat and briskly stir the mascarpone into the risotto and finish with ½ the chopped chives; check the seasoning and divide between 4 large bowls
  • Toss the pumpkin chunks with the rest of the chives and arrange on top of the risotto; finish the dish with the chopped pumpkin seeds and a touch of olive oil over the top