Butternut squash risotto with tender grains of arborio rice suspended in a creamy white wine infused sauce. Risotto is a labor of love, so take the time to slowly simmer and stir the rice with warm vegetable broth to ensure all of the flavors are absorbed. For this recipe, I add small pieces of bright orange squash for a hint of sweetness that I think you’ll enjoy!
This butternut squash risotto incorporates bits of the winter vegetable to add nutty butterscotch flavor to the savory rice. The great debate is if risotto should be eaten as a side dish or entree. Grains are often regarded as an accompaniment to a protein, but on Italian restaurant menus, risotto shines on its own. It’s a simple and sophisticated dish, made of starchy short grain rice, wine, stock, and cheese.
Unlike common boiling and simmering methods for cooking rice, risotto demands your physical presence and awareness. You must watch over its progress like a helicopter parent caring for their newborn child. I find making this dish therapeutic because you’re fully engaged in the sounds, smells, and tastes. Daily life stress just floats away.
Cooking with butternut squash
Using butternut squash as an ingredient can be intimidating, but practice makes perfect. The thick outer layers require a little creativity to remove. A vegetable peeler surprisingly can cut away at the skin with ease. Once I figured out how to cut butternut squash, I love adding it to various dishes like mac and cheese, and tacos.
For this recipe, I found it easiest to briefly saute diced squash first, before adding the rice. This process allows for the edges to soften and develop more caramelized flavors during the saute step. Another option is to separately make roasted butternut squash in the oven, then stir in at the end of cooking. I prefer one-pan approach to minimize dirty dishes. Plus, the starches from the vegetable have more opportunity to thicken and make the dish richer and creamier.
How to make butternut squash risotto
- Saute the butternut squash with butter to lightly brown the surface and intensify sweetness.
- Briefly cook the rice in oil to lightly toast the grains for a nutty flavor.
- The wine should completely evaporate before adding in the stock.
- Add the warmed stock in 1/2 cup increments to allow the rice to gradually absorb the liquid.
- Constantly stir the rice to release the starches, this thickens the cooking liquid and keeps the granules separate.
How do you know when it’s ready?
After a few overcooked plates of clumpy blobs of rice, I had to take a step back to figure out where things went wrong. The truth is, there is no shortcut or set and forget mindset. Dedicate at least a solid 30 minutes, to stir, pour, stir, and repeat. With the great volume of liquid you’re tasked to incorporate, it seems like magic that the tiny riso, or rice, could absorb it all. Then finally it happens, when you think you couldn’t stir a moment longer, the rice becomes tender, yet slightly chewy, and suspended is a luscious sauce. Bellissimo!
Stirring in freshly grated aged Parmesan cheese instantly locks all of the grains together in a cheesy, creamy union. Sprinkled with chopped parsley leaves and cracked black pepper, a piping hot bowl must be enjoyed immediately. The butternut squash adds a festive fall and winter taste, perfect for highlighting seasonal ingredients and adding variety to your meal.
More Italian recipes
Do not rinse arborio rice before cooking
The naturally occurring starches on the outside of the rice grain add richness to the risotto. It provides thickening properties when heated with a liquid, and stirred over time. It adds a punch of creaminess to the texture of the dish.
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Butternut Squash Risotto
- 8 cups unsalted vegetable stock
- 3 cups butternut squash, ½-inch dice, about 1 ½ pound squash
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion, 1⁄4-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- black pepper, for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- In a large saucepan, add the vegetable stock and heat over medium-low heat until warmed.
- Separately, in dutch oven or a large sauté pan with high sides, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add butternut squash and salt, stir and saute until lightly browned and softened, 6 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, once hot add the onions and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add arborio rice and stir until the grains are coated with oil, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine to the pan, stirring until the wine has evaporated.
- Add the warmed stock from the large saucepan to the dutch oven, 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring frequently.
- Add more stock once the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed by the rice.
- Repeat adding the stock in 1⁄2-cup additions as the liquid is absorbed, frequently stirring, until rice is tender yet slightly chewy, about 25 to 35 minutes.
- The desired result is an oatmeal-like consistency that's loose and not a big clump of rice.
- Turn off the heat and add Parmesan cheese.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with more freshly grated parmesan cheese and parsley.
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