Butternut Squash Risotto

by angelika on November 13, 2010

Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. It is so versatile, so decadent, so filling. I love to treat risotto seasonally, using what I find fresh at the market. In the summer fresh corn risotto is one of my favorites, in the spring baby zucchini or fresh peas. This is the kind of dish that once you master it in one incarnation, you can instantly recreate with myriad other ingredients. It is not nearly as labor intensive as some think. You don’t really need to stand chained to the stove stirring like it’s a sentence. You really just stir often while you are preparing the rest of your meal. I mean, you’re there anyway, what’s the big deal? 
Butternut Squash Risotto 

5 cups vegetable stock 
(I used 4 cups broth and one cup water) 
2 TBS butter
1 onion finely chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed 
5 tsp chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dry sage
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan)
4 TBS hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped 
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
salt to taste
This recipe is adapted, barely, from a Williams-Sonoma recipe. I have been making it for years, and it has even graced our Thanksgiving table a few times. I love the creamy texture of risotto, and the butternut squash melts into the rice giving such a lovely golden sweetness that contrasts beautifully with the sage and the parmesan. The whole meal is done in just over 30 minutes, which makes a wonderful weeknight meal as well. 
Start by preheating the oven to 375º and then roast the nuts for about 7 minutes. You want them to smell fragrant but not burn. When they cool chop them finely. The original recipe asks you to peel the nuts, but I don’t see the point. 
In a medium saucepan heat the stock and keep it at a simmer. I like to keep it on the back burner and the stock pot I use for the risotto right in front of it. 
Chop the onions really finely. I don’t like big chunks of onion in my risotto. I think it ruins the bite of it. Chop the squash in small cubes. You want no bigger than 2″ squares. Otherwise the squash doesn’t break down completely in the risotto. 

In a larger pot or saucepan saute the onions in the butter until they are soft and beginning to brown. 
Add the squash and the sage and saute for 2 minutes. 
Cover for 7 minutes or until the squash is tender. 
Add the rice and saute for 2 minutes to toast the rice. 
Add the wine and saute for 3 minutes or until the wine is absorbed. The wine is an essential step, so don’t leave it out. It tempers the rice and gets it ready to absorb all the stock. The key to a good risotto is a soft creaminess with just the right bite in the center. Not to mushy not too firm. I used a pinot gris. The nice thing is you only use a half a cup, so you have the whole rest of the bottle to drink while you cook!
Start adding broth one ladle full at a time, and stir until it is absorbed. 

When your spoon parts the rice and leaves a trail, 
you are ready for another ladleful. 

You continue in this way until the rice is al dente. You can taste it to see. You are looking for soft on the outside with just  hint of a bite in the center. 
While you are stirring in the stock you can prepare any sides you want to serve. You don’t need to stir constantly, just frequently. Like once a minute, give it a few seconds. We made a salad while this was cooking. It’s a simple Italian greens mix with some vegetables and a vinaigrette. I use the recipe from my basic balsamic, but I substituted champagne vinegar. 
It usually takes about 15 minutes from the wine to the end of a risotto. You may not use all the stock. I had about 1/2 cup left at the end. If you start to run out of stock and your risotto is not done, just add water to the simmering pot. 
done cooking 
Stir in your cheese and hazelnuts. Add the pepper and salt. Add one more ladle of stock and stir. 
Serve with a fresh dusting of cheese. If you used fresh sage reserve a bit for the end. You can also sprinkle some fresh hazelnuts. We skipped this part as the nuts in the risotto are nice and soft, the crunchy ones on top can be a little rough for the little people. 
A votre santé! 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

abigail November 13, 2010 at 4:43 am

ha! I posted a butternut squash recipe today too!

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