Chef's Pumpkin Risotto With Acorn Squash & Smoked Scallops Is the Perfect Autumn Meal by Elisa Schmitz

Chef's Pumpkin Risotto With Acorn Squash & Smoked Scallops Is the Perfect Autumn Meal

When the calendar turns to fall, it is pumpkin's time to shine. Not just content to be featured in muffins, pies and even lattes, pumpkin is perfect in main courses, too. This pumpkin risotto with acorn squash and smoked scallops may just be the perfect autumn meal. 

On a trip to Sundara Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, I was part of a culinary demonstration by Executive Chef Chris of the Spa's Nava Restaurant. Sundara means "beautiful" and Nava means "fresh" in Sanskrit, exactly the right names, which should tell you most of what you need to know about this special place.

Chef Chris uses culinary demonstrations to test out some of his creative recipe ideas on excited guests. At this one, he showed us how to make delectable pumpkin risotto, topped with acorn squash, topped with smoked, pan-seared scallops. It's as delicious as it sounds. And, it's surprisingly easy to make – it took only about 30 minutes for him to whip this up in front of us. I wrote it all down as best as I could so we can make it at home! This delicious dinner recipe makes six servings.

Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6



  • 4 tablespoons olive oil/canola oil mixture blended
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • half a medium onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin (he prefers fresh pumpkin)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 cups chicken stock (can use vegetable base if preferred)
  • 1 acorn squash
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • fresh Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • fresh chopped chives, to taste (also can use fresh parsley or tarragon)
  • microgreens, to garnish (optional)
  • olive oil or truffle oil, to garnish (optional)


  • 6 fresh scallops
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil/canola oil blend

Here's how to make it: 

1. For the pumpkin base, in a small mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of pumpkin and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Blend the mixture and set in the refrigerator until needed (you can make this in advance so it's ready to go whenever you are).

2. For the risotto, put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil/canola oil blend into a large saucepan. Once heated, add 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice and stir to coat. Toss the rice around in the pan; this is called "parching the rice." Add another 2 tablespoons of the oil blend. To the parched rice and oil mixture, add half a medium onion, diced. Add 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and stir. To the blended rice, add 1/2 a cup of white wine to de-glaze. Stir the mixture. 

3. Remove pumpkin base from the refrigerator. Add pumpkin base to the rice mixture in saucepan. Add chicken stock or vegetable base a ladle at a time and stir until the entire mixture is blended. Allow to simmer.

Remove the skin from the acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into strips and then "rough dice" the entire squash into small pieces. (Check the rice mixture and stir. Add more chicken stock if rice is still crunchy.) 

4. In a separate pan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil/canola oil mixture. Add the squash pieces and saute. (Check the rice mixture again. Add more chicken stock and stir if rice is still crunchy.) Saute the squash until crisp tender. Season it with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste. 

5. For the scallops, smoke the scallops for 7-10 minutes using the Smoking Gun smoker (there are many handheld smoker brands to choose from), or other method. Once smoked, season scallops with kosher salt and black pepper on one side. In a separate pan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil/canola oil mixture. Put the scallops in the hot pan and sear on one side only. Keep scallops in motion in pan to develop a nice coating. Flip scallops and then place the pan into the oven preheated at 425 degrees F for 45 seconds. Do not overcook. Remove pan from oven (careful, pan will be sizzling). 

6. Finish the rice with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir, then let rice absorb all the liquid. It should have a velvety texture and be "wavy." It should not be like soup and you should not be able to stack it; it should be in between. Top the risotto with fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped chives. 

7. Plate the risotto. Top risotto with the acorn squash pieces. Top the risotto and squash with a scallop (may need to dab the bottom of the scallop to remove excess oil first). Add microgreens and a drizzle of olive or truffle oil as garnish, if desired. Enjoy!

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This looks yummy!
Elisa Schmitz
This meal is absolutely delicious. I hope you all love it as much as I do! #yum
Just wow! 😋
Meredith Schneider
Oh my! I can almost smell this dish! I so need to make it. Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds, thanks for sharing!
Elisa Schmitz
I hope you love it as much as I do, Meredith Schneider ! It's so good and is perfect for fall. Enjoy!
Fiona Whiley
This looks fantastic! And gluten free is just what I need. Thanks for sharing this.
Elisa Schmitz
I am gluten free, too, Fiona Whiley . This recipe is perfect for us. Enjoy!!

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