Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the parsnips and boil until firm-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
Heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the parsnips, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook until sizzling and crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the sage and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant and the sage is starting to crisp, about 2 minutes more. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in an 11- to 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, a small pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, 2 tsp. salt, and the saffron (if using), stirring well to coat. Add 2 cups of the broth and the wine; simmer, stirring, until the liquid is completely absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Continue adding the broth in 1 cup increments, stirring and adjusting the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and letting each addition be almost absorbed before adding the next. The risotto is done when the rice is nearly but not fully tender (al dente) and still a little soupy (this usually takes 14 to 16 minutes after the first addition of liquid). You may not use all the broth, but you should use at least 4 cups.
Fold the parsnip mixture into the risotto. Add the butter and Parmigiano and stir gently to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with more grated Parmigiano.
nutrition information (per serving):
22, Fat Calories
190, Saturated Fat
17, Monounsaturated Fat
81, Polyunsaturated Fat
Photo: Scott Phillips