Zucchini & Squash Risotto with Roasted Pork Chops (Risotto alla Zucchine / Cucuzza con Braciola di Maiale)

final dish: Zucchini & Summer Squash Risotto with Roasted Pork Chops

Whenever I meet folks and I tell them I’m interested in food and cooking the inevitable question follows: “so, what do you cook?”  Before I answer I often pause and aim to think of luxurious ingredients and extraordinary dishes, but I always end up describing some variation of a pasta, soup, and/or risotto dish.  I qualify my answer by blurting out I also cook lots of fish, eggs, vegetables, and the occasional piece of meat.  When I’m feeling particular social and wordy I’ll explain the concept of piattini or small plates of food, including salumi, cheese, tomatoes, canned high quality fish, pickled vegetables, et. al.  Yet, I always feel as though I’ve disappointed the person who has asked the question; as if my answer should have included some variation of Beef Bourguignon (popularized by the highly over-hyped Julia Child; if you ask me the typical Italian grandmother has done more for food in this country than the high pitched Child) or an experiment out of the ridiculous culinary discipline of molecular gastronomy.

One dish that folks do think requires intense preparation and some level of skill is risotto, however their view couldn’t be further from the truth (in fact, in northern Italy risotto is an everyday dish, what folks would call a “staple meal”).  Making risotto is straightforward and like all Italian food is dependent on ingredients (with some care taken to understanding technique). The main ingredient in risotto is arborio or carnaroli rice (i.e., short grain rice that does a great job of absorbing liquid in a slow manner and thereafter releasing sublime starch).  The following dish is a variation of Risotto alla Milanese which includes both zucchini and squash.  
Zucchini & Squash Risotto with Roasted Pork Chops (Risotto alla Zucchine / Cucuzza con Braciola di Maiale)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher Salt
  • 2 medium sized zucchini, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized squash (any variety), finely chopped
  • 6 to 8 cups of water (you can use also homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken stock)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of saffron
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped finely
  1. Clean the squash and zucchini well and cut into smaller pieces (into half inch cubes) and set aside (note: buy the best vegetables you can afford). Place the the olive oil, onions, and a half teaspoon salt in a large heavy pan and set the flame to medium. Cook down the onions until soft and then add the rice and zucchini and squash. Toast the rice until it becomes translucent (the center can have a bit of white color).
  2. To prepare the cooking liquid, add the water, wine, and saffron to a medium sized pot and bring to a boil (you can also add a bay leaf, a bit of salt, and freshly ground pepper to the liquid). You can also add chicken or vegetable broth to the cooking liquid but I find it unnecessary and given the expense associated with saffron, I don't like anything to overpower the ingredient.
  3. Next, ladle in 3-4 cups of hot liquid or enough to cover the rice completely. Cook and stir for 5-8 minutes (making sure to reduce the flame to a simmer). Continue to ladle in more cooking liquid to cover the rice and stir frequently. This process can go on for 30-40 minutes and you'll know you're done when the rice has released it's starch and the kernels are tender. Once you've reached the consistency you like, add the butter and grated cheese and stir well. Remove the pot from your fire and cover for a few minutes (this promotes a bit more cooking and will add more texture to the final product). You can finely chopped parsley before serving, if you'd like.
  4. We served the risotto with local pork chops from a New Jersey farm. The traditional way to eat risotto is as a first dish (in a bowl preferably) as you would eat pasta before a main course. The pork was marinated in garlic, lemon, and soy sauce for 3 hours. Thereafter, the pork chops were grilled on high heat and then placed in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. We let the pork sit for 15 minutes after removing from the oven.
  5. Serve the risotto and pork shops with a hearty beer or a glass of Barolo.
(photo: the cooking liquid for the risotto: saffron, fresh water, homemade wine, and salt/pepper)
(photo: risotto requires that you add liquid to the ingredients in a slow methodical manner in order to both cook the rice and release starch)


  1. Well it sounds great except dissing anybody online like dead Julia Childs adds a bitter negative note to the otherwise anticipated good flavor in this recipe

    • Glad you liked the dish/recipe.  Child, in our opinion, was an over-hyped popularizer of French cuisine.  She happened to come around at a time when the food culture in the United States was at it lowest point, hence her great popularity and relevance.  We’re not big fans of Julia Child, but again this is just our opinion (she also happened to assert that Italian cuisine wasn’t a real cuisine; that, of course, is a more important negative note; given our focus on Italian food here at Scordo).

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!

      • I like this recipe. What I do not like was your generous helping of pettiness on the side (with regard to Julia Child). And then I noticed that scorning her seems to be a recurring theme on your blog.

        How old are you? Did you grow up watching her like I did? Because if you had you would know that she loved Italian food, too. You would also know how important it was for SOMEONE to bring the US back around to the idea of real home-cooked food at the time that she did. Not everyone had an Italian grandma, and even some that did still cooked crap – I know, I grew up surround by Italians and Italian Americans in the Boston area. Maybe it’s time you set down that torch you’ve been carrying for whatever perceived slight she cast, and just focus on good, honest food, sans snark.

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