Butternut Squash Risotto

Whether all would agree or not, I kind of like to think I have a practical, homemade approach to cooking. I’m not whipping out filet mignon every night, but I keep our weekly dinners semi-creative with menu plans and the occasional splurge on ingredients and have found that quite honestly, pork and chicken can be as exciting as hard-to-find or expensive ingredients. This utterly irresistible and gourmet butternut squash risotto is going to end up on more of the fussy end of the spectrum, no matter how I try to insist that it is a simple meal – and that lies mostly in the fact that a successful risotto requires nearly constant stirring, which can be tricky if you don’t have the time or the managerial skills (read: children flying around during dinner prep) to swing it on a weeknight.

But if you are looking for an elegant (and yes, simple!) dish to prepare for a special night in or you end up with dinner prep hours that give you more flexibility to stir, stir, stir, then this dish is a no-brainer. Risotto is comforting and still classy at the same time and the variations are endless. I love risotto, absolutely love it. In fact one of the most delicious meals I have ever, and I mean ever, consumed was at a work function for my husband where a small catering company served a pear and parmesan risotto topped with Chilean sea bass. The memory still fills me with delight (my husband not so much since I finagled half of his portion from him for “testing” purposes).

For this butternut squash risotto, the creamy, rich, tender rice is infused with the subtle flavors of butternut squash, sage and bacon and the combination works perfectly. Helped along by a healthy dose of flavorful Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this risotto has easily made it into my new favorite recipe repertoire. I did happen to tackle this on a weeknight when my husband was traveling for work and while the end result was mostly slopped onto my kids’ plates without a shred of beautiful plating, my four boys ate this in record speed. I mean, really, there isn’t much not to love.

What To ServeIf you really want to amp things up to a gourmet level, try serving it with a pork tenderloin and green salad. Winning combination, I’d say.

Butternut Squash Risotto

One Year Ago: Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken
Two Years Ago: Chicken Cordon Bleu
Three Years Ago: Skillet Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Butternut Squash Risotto

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish

Butternut Squash Risotto

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth; more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 cups (1/4-inch-diced) fresh, uncooked butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Pour the chicken broth in a small/medium saucepan and set over medium heat. It doesn't need to boil, just heat it through and keep it hot while making the risotto. In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and fry, turning once, until they’ve turned dark green in most places, about 1 minute total, being careful not to brown the leaves. With a fork, transfer to the fried sage leaves to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Drain off all of the oil except for 1-2 teaspoons. Cook the bacon in the hot oil in the saucepan, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the plate with the sage. Again, drain off excess grease, if desired, leaving about 2 teaspoons in the saucepan.
  2. Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the squash and rice and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Ladle in enough of the hot broth mixture to just cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed. Keep the heat regulated so that the broth isn't boiling (it will evaporate too quickly) but instead the rice/broth mixture bubbles and simmers gently while it cooks. Add another ladleful of broth and continue cooking and stirring until absorbed. Continue this process (adding a ladleful or two of broth once the previous broth has been absorbed), stirring constantly, until the rice is tender with just a slightly toothsome quality, about 25 minutes. If you use all the broth before the rice gets tender, simply use more broth.
  3. Set aside the nicest looking sage leaves as a garnish (about 1 leaf per serving) and reserve a few crumbles of bacon for garnish as well. Crumble the remaining bacon and sage leaves into the risotto. Stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the remaining bacon over each serving and garnish with a sage leaf. Serve immediately.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/butternut-squash-risotto/
Recipe Source: adapted from Fine Cooking, passed on to me by my sister-in-law, Kylie, who tried it and loved it first

31 Responses to Butternut Squash Risotto

  1. I die a little for risotto.

  2. Kim in MD says:

    I love risotto, and while it is labor intensive it is SO worth it! This recipe looks delicious, Melanie! I’m impressed that you made this on a weeknight while your husband was out of town. Considering you have four young boys and are weeks away from giving birth, well…in my book that makes you Super Mom! :-)

  3. I’ve made butternut squash risotto many times! I love it! Love how you threw some bacon in this, too :D

  4. Teresa R. says:

    My girls and I made your chicken enchilada soup this weekend. I think we’ve made it about 30 times since you posted the recipe. Anyway, I bought 2 butternut
    squash (or squashes???) for the soup but only needed one. Now I know exactly what I’ll do with the other squash. This recipe looks delicious!

  5. Butternut squash risotto is one of my favorite ever, ever winter meals. This looks so delicious, Mel! Love that you added sage and bacon, too – perfect compliments. Thanks for sharing!

  6. StephenC says:

    I have made squash risotto many times and consider it to be a wonderfully easy, delicious, and nutritious thing.

  7. amy says:

    I love this, thank you for the idea!!

  8. Matina says:

    I love this! The sage and bacon must be a wonderful addition. I want to make this soon.

  9. I absolutely adore risotto, there is nothing better.

  10. Nicole says:

    My very favorite butternut risotto comes from the Williams and Sonoma cookbook. In that variation, you roast a whole butternut squash in the oven (coat a pan with a little olive oil, roast both halves face down at about 425 until soft), while you cook the risotto just like you’d cook any other risotto. Then, you scoop out the roasted squash, and mix it into the rice. I’ve ask for it for my birthday almost every year since we first made it. Now, I think we might have to try adding a little bacon.

    Honestly, what dish ever became worse with the addition of some bacon? :)

  11. Valerie says:

    Hi,
    We are not big sage fans – any other ideas to sub for that?
    -Valerie

  12. Mel says:

    Valerie – you could just leave it out or try adding a bit of dried rosemary (just skip the frying the herbs in oil step).

  13. Mandy says:

    I bought some fresh, pre-cubed butternut squash from Costco months and it has been sitting in my freezer ever since. Could I use it in this recipe or will it get too mushy?

  14. Mel says:

    Mandy – I plan to use some leftover frozen butternut squash (uncooked) next time, too. I think it will work fine – the squash gets really soft in this recipe anyway. The only thing to really watch is excess liquid as the squash gives up more liquid from being frozen but I think it will evaporate and cook into the risotto with the rest of the broth. I’d say try it!

  15. Anne says:

    I have a bunch of 1-cup portions of pureed butternut squash in the freezer that I have been wondering about. They just sit there and sit there, not getting used. I think I will try using some for this recipe, but I will defrost and strain as much liquid out as I can before mixing it in. If anyone else uses already cooked butternut before me, let me know how it works out! The Williams-Sonoma recipe mentioned above implies that it works alright.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for your blog! We share the same cooking philosophies and ergo I cook your recipes often– thanks!

  17. I made your BBQ Macaroni salad for a potluck this weekend and everybody LOVED it! I’ve had it bookmarked forever, and I’m glad I finally got around to making it!

  18. Darn! I was eyeing the butternut squash at the store yesterday and passed it up for some beautiful strawberries (I know totally unrelated but that is what happened). I wish I had gotten the squash (and the berries) so that I could make this for dinner tonight!

  19. Amanda_in_AB says:

    What if you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t get fresh sage?

  20. Mel says:

    Amanda – try adding a teaspoon of dried sage to the risotto as it cooks and skip the frying-fresh-sage step.

  21. grace says:

    if i HAVE to eat rice, this is the way to do it!

  22. jenny says:

    butternut squash risotto is one of the only meatless meals (I skip the bacon) that my hubby requests! I also roast the cubed squash in the oven and add at the end- adds that sweet caramelized flavor…. yummmmmm

  23. Theresa says:

    Can you use sweet potatoes instead of the squash if you dont have any on hand? I think that might be tasty as well

  24. Mel says:

    Theresa – I’ve never tried sweet potatoes in this recipe. Let me know if you do and how it turns out.

  25. Jillian A says:

    I made this for dinner tonight for my 13 yo son and myself. We both couldn’t stop eating it! It was AMAZING! I’m really happy that the risotto came out perfect. Your recipe is very well written and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making this again – next time think I’ll try roasting the squash first. Maybe even try pumpkin one day :)

    Thanks!

  26. This looks delicious, I may have to make it for lunch!

  27. Becky says:

    Yum!!!! My husband loved it too. I posted your link on my blog with a pic of my own. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

    http://rookietorockstar.blogspot.com/2012/12/meal-plannin-monday.html

  28. Erin says:

    When you say 1 1/2 cup rice,does that mean cooked or uncooked? When your adding it,should it already be cooked?

  29. Mel says:

    Erin, it is uncooked rice.

  30. Anne says:

    Mel, When I want to know what I am making for dinner I just search your website, because I know it will be a tried and true recipe. Its always just simple and delicious. This recipe was no different. I had left over Italian sausage so I used that instead of the bacon. Still fantastic. I need to go make some things for Superbowl Sunday and I’m going to start with your recipes for sure! Excellent job!

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