Butternut Squash Risotto

January 12, 2011

I love ristotto.

My first experience of eating it was at a friend’s parents’ house in Bristol. Her Dad made an incredible mushroom risotto as an afterthought post-pub when we were all tipsy and hungry at 11.30pm. Nothing has ever tasted so good.

I remember being so impressed at how quickly this fancy-looking, perfect-tasting meal came together.

A few years ago Dan cooked me what is still the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever had for a valentine’s day dinner…with a side of pork tenderloin. As you do. That meal was just the best.

Dan’s risotto skills mean that I have never, ever made it for myself. Trust me to find something with squash to make for my first attempt.

In the end, I liked the idea of this risotto more than I actually liked the final result. Sometimes that happens. It was tasty and rich with that sweet, autumnal squash flavour, but it just didn’t do the job in the way that Dan’s beloved mushroom version does.

Either way, if you’re up for something new and slightly different in the risotto realm, give this a go. It certainly works, it’s merely a matter of taste.

Some Risotto Rules (as taught to me by Dan and as partially ignored by me during the cooking of this dish — to its detriment)

1. The heat should be up pretty high – higher than the recipe calls for – so that the liquid really is getting cooked off quite quickly. This means you have to be constantly stirring to avoid it burning. It’s a good arm workout, trust me.

2. Once you get the desired “bite”, stop. I added about another cup of liquid after I’d reached that optimum point and my risotto lost the lovely bite it should have had and became a wee bit soupy. Taste it as you go. It should have bite but not be crunchy; and it certainly shouldn’t get to the point where it tastes like normal cooked rice. If it is, you’ve gone too far.

Butternut Squash Risotto

adapted from Martha Stewart


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth, mixed with 1/2 cup water and heated
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), plus more for garnish


  1. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until edges soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add rice; stir to coat. Add wine; cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low; add 1/2 cup hot broth mixture. Cook, stirring, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding more, 35 to 40 minutes total.
  4. Stir in Parmesan, sage, and salt to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with more Parmesan and sage, if desired.

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