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10 Pumpkin Dishes to Try in Houston: #2: Pumpkin Risotto at Prego

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I adore pumpkin. It's orange (my favorite color), healthful (fiber! Vitamin A!), and associated with two lovely, food-centric holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving). Starting around October, I always find myself on the hunt for pumpkin-flavored foods, and this autumn is no exception. So, between now and Turkey Day, I will be counting down 10 Pumpkin Dishes to Try in Houston.

#2: Pumpkin Risotto at Prego

Had I not read the English descriptions on the menu during my first visit to Prego, I probably would have overlooked the fact that pumpkin is the key component in the Risotto di Zucca ($22). It wasn't that I assumed the Italian and English words for pumpkin were close cognates (i.e., pumpkin and il pumpcino), but rather that I don't associate my favorite squash with run-of-the-mill (American) Italian cuisine. Which leads me to my second incorrect assumption: that Prego only offered the sort of eggplant parmesan and chicken piccata fare common to many Houston Italian restaurants.

I was happy to be corrected during that initial visit, and most recently again when I sampled Prego's lovely pumpkin risotto. The rice itself was perfectly prepared: thick but not sticky, plump but not glutinous, with each kernel swollen with chicken broth. Intermixed in this delightful grain mountain were sizeable Gulf shrimp, flecks of pancetta, a sprinkling of scallions and, of course, roast pumpkin, which gave the dish a lovely sunny hue. The salty pancetta heightened the taste of squash, and when combined with the fleshy prawns, the risotto took on a comforting, sweet porcine flavor.

Prego advertises itself as serving "contemporary Italian cuisine," but I think that description does a disservice to its creative offerings, which also include the Ravioli di Anitra (stuffed with smoked duck, pear, and pistachios) and the Dita di Granchio (crab fingers on Tuscan bread with lemon garlic sauce).

And if you really can't get enough gourd, you can pair your risotto with an order of Prego's Ravioli di Zucca, which combines the milder flavors of pumpkin with hearty walnuts in a brown butter and sage sauce. You just might glow orange with delight.

The list to date:

#10: Pumpkin Cheesecake Balls at Chocolat Du Monde #9: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale #8: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin from Stone Mill Bakers #7: "Halloween" Pumpkin Curry from Khun Kay Thai Café #6: Pumpkin Praline Ice Cream at Amy's #5: Pumpkin Spice Latte at Diedrich "Dirk's" Coffee #4: Pumpkin Goat Cheese Croquettes at Pizzeria Dolce Vita Enoteca #3: Pumpkin Cupcake at Crave Cupcakes

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