One of my signature fall dishes is butternut squash risotto. I've been making it faithfully for years, and I have the recipe committed to memory at this point. It's hearty without being heavy, and almost sweet (although a bit of Grappa cuts the natural sweetness nicely). I always use butternut squash, but any winter squash works. I'm curious to branch out and try making this recipe with acorn or kabocha squash. Risotto has a reputation for being intimidating, but I really don't find that to be the case. The hands-on phase requiring regular (not constant) stirring lasts 20 minutes, and I taste regularly to keep tabs on the texture and avoid overcooking.
Whether to use butter and/or olive oil for risotto is the source of a longstanding and deeply felt debate. I don't consider myself an expert, and I think it mostly comes down to personal preference. I use a mix of both because I like the creaminess that a little butter imparts, but you could easily swap it out for more olive oil and omit the cheese to make this dish vegan-friendly.
The butternut squash cubes look like cheddar cheese in this light.
The aroma of onion and garlic sautéing in olive oil reminds me of both my grandparents' and parents' kitchens. I love it!
Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe
- 1 butternut squash, or other winter squash variety
- 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 6-8 cups vegetable broth, simmering
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Grappa or Brandy (optional, I add grappa which balances the flavors nicely)
- 2/3 cup Parimigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Parsley, for garnish
- Peel, seed and chop the squash into small pieces
- Using a heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the onion and garlic on low heat until soft
- Add the squash cubes and sauté on medium low heat until soft, about 15 minutes
- Add the rice and 1/4 cup of vegetable broth and stir well
- Once the liquid has been absorbed, stir in 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
- Repeat the process until the rice is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes - the texture should be creamy, but not mushy
- Remove from heat and add butter, Grappa, and cheese
- Cover and set aside for 2 minutes before serving