This winter squash risotto is amazingly good. You might call it a “gateway risotto” because once you eat it, all of a sudden you’ll start making all kinds of risotto. Although it requires a lot of stirring, it’s surprising easy to make and SO delicious. It’s comfort food to me now. My sister-in-law, has been asking me for this recipe for a long time. Sorry it’s taken me so long, Meggan!
Although this recipe used to be our default side dish for fancy meals (and so we rarely made it), now we even make risotto for an easy meal on a Saturday night. Yes, we’re addicted (enough to go out into a snowstorm to get more arborio rice!)
If you want to try other risottos, we’ve also loved yukina savoy risotto (good for any hearty green and with any kind of seafood), parsnip risotto with spinach (my favorite, maybe even more than this recipe), broccoli and cheddar risotto (in the oven – so EASY!), and endive risotto.
Winter Squash Risotto
Recipe adapted from one that Nik originally got from a cooking class
Serves 4-5-ish (depends on how much you love risotto)
3 C chicken/turkey broth (or vegetable broth if you want it to be vegan)
Bring to boil in a saucepan and then reduce the heat so it’s just simmering. Cover so that it doesn’t evaporate. (You can do this while you’re prepping the other ingredients and cooking the initial stages.)
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender but not brown, 5-7 minutes or so. Once the onion is tender, add the onion and stir until it’s nicely fragrant, about a minute more.
1 C uncooked Arborio rice*
Stir in the rice, stirring constantly, until it starts to smell toasty, about 2 minutes.
½ C dry white wine**
Add to the pan and stir it in until it has mostly absorbed/evaporated. This will happen very quickly.
2 ½ C cooked pureed winter squash, like pumpkin or butternut squash***
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme (optional, if you have it)
salt to taste (The original recipe doesn’t call for any, probably because it assumes that you’ll be using pre-made broth which is usually salted. I make my own, with no salt. So I usually add at least 1 tsp at this point and then keep tasting for salt.)
Stir in and stir occasionally until it’s bubbling. This will probably happen quickly.
Turn the heat to medium-low. Stir in 1 C of the hot broth. From here on out, you’ll be ladling in hot broth, stirring occasionally until the rice has absorbed most of it (but not all), ladling in more broth, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but still slightly firm to the bite. You may not need to use all the broth. The whole mixture should be very creamy. It will probably take 15-20 minutes to get to this point but I find that this varies widely depending on how high I have the heat, how often I’m stirring, etc. Some risotto experts say you should stir frequently. I find a stir every minute or two is good enough and I usually prep the rest of dinner while I’m stirring. (If you’re more of a visual person, this video gives a fairly good overview of the risotto making process.)
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
1 T butter
This step is entirely optional. Up until this point, the recipe can be vegan (if you use vegetable broth) and is also dairy-free. If you want to add the cheese and butter, it will make it extra decadent. One time, Nik forgot to add it and we discovered that we like it better without the cheese and butter. Because we add the extra pumpkin (see below), it doesn’t need the additional fat. Your choice on this one!
freshly ground black pepper
Season with black pepper and salt as needed. Serve immediately and consider yourself addicted!
*We buy our Arborio rice at Trader Joe’s but I think it’s fairly easy to find in grocery stores these days. Just make sure you’re buying the plain rice and not the kind with seasonings added. And yes, risotto is essentially white rice, which we typically avoid and haven’t eaten in years (except when we’re making sushi). So my next step in our risotto eating journey is to figure out whole grain alternatives to white Arborio rice. This has some intriguing ideas.
**I know nothing about wine so I have no advice to give you about what kind of wine to buy for this. I just go to the wine store, say, “I’m making risotto, it calls for dry white wine, and I don’t want to pay a lot of money,” they suggest something to me and then I buy it, usually for $8-9. We keep the leftover wine in a jar in the fridge and use it until it’s gone so it usually hangs out for a month or more. I don’t know if this is acceptable wine practice or not but the risotto always ends up tasting delicious so I guess we’re doing OK! 🙂
***The original recipe only calls for 1 C of cooked squash. We put in 2 ½ C because that’s how I freeze our squash in the fall. We love the flavor of a risotto with lots of squash in it. Feel free to reduce this amount. You’ll just might need to add more broth. If you’re using canned pumpkin, I would use the whole can.