Butternut Squash Risotto
Hello hello! If you’re a repeat visitor to this blog then you know that I love seasonal eating. Nothing tastes better than fresh produce. But in the fall and winter, it can sometimes feel difficult to eat seasonally – and colorfully. The world outside looks gray and drab, and you start to miss the bright blues, yellows, and reds of summer produce. Color is everywhere though, even in fall and winter, if you look hard enough. My favorite colorful cold-weather veggie is butternut squash, which is why I decided to give this butternut squash risotto a spin.
I first learned how to make risotto when my sister-in-law visited from Italy just before the pandemic. I was shocked at how easy it was, but then the arborio rice I bought for it sat in my cupboard for months, untouched. That might have something to do with my general lack of care for what I was preparing for dinner (summer lockdown saw many a frozen pizza…). But now that it’s fall, I need to get in the kitchen to shake the cool weather blues away and make sure I’m getting the right nutrients that my body needs. And this butternut squash risotto delivers! Tender squash folded into a silky risotto that warms you from the inside out – truly the perfect fall dinner.
The first thing that risotto pros will notice is that there is no wine in this recipe. I’ve talked about going sober before, which is the reason I made liquorless orange liqueur and watermelon “gin”ger and tonic. So buying a bottle of wine was not ideal, especially since I’m trying to cut down on my spending as Christmas draws near and my baking/gifting list keeps expanding. I did some research, and it turns out that most of the reason the wine is in risotto is to add some acidity. So… why not just use vinegar? In fact, why not use my favorite vinegar for both fall and spring, balsamic? So right at the end, I add a splash to keep things interesting. And honestly, I never even missed the wine! Obviously because you’re removing liquid when you remove the wine, you need more stock, but I still managed to use less than a full carton, so it was all good.
As always, the key to a good risotto is the constant stirring, which both prevents burning on the bottom and lets the rice break down a bit to facilitate a velvety smooth texture. I won’t go fully into the whole process here but you can check the Italy #GentGoesGlobal post here for more instructions. Trust me, risotto isn’t as scary as it sounds! It makes an excellent backdrop for whatever flavors you want to pair with it. Do you have a favorite fall or winter veg you’d like to add to risotto? Let me know in the comments below! And if you like the #GentGoesGlobal series, stay tuned; I have some more exciting recipes in the works for that.
Until next time, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living!
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 1 butternut squash (cut into 1/2" cubes)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 4 Tbsp butter (divided)
- 1 red onion
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Preheat your oven to 450°F. Toss the squash cubes in the syrup, oil, and seasonings. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter. Sauté the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Allow it to toast without burning, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the stock a bit at a time, stirring continuously and adding stock when the last bit is absorbed by the rice. This should take about 20-30 minutes, but pay more attention to texture than the clock. Your risotto is done when it is done absorbing stock and the grains are tender with just a hint of bite.
- Remove it from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and remaining 2 Tbsp of butter, then gently fold in as much of the squash as you want. Serve immediately while still warm. If there are any leftovers, warm them up the next day in a saucepan on the stove with a bit of stock. Enjoy!