Butternut squash is a slightly sweet and nutty winter squash that lends itself well to many dishes including creamy risotto.
This butternut squash dish is creamy, earthy and flavorful. Serve it by itself or as a side complement to chicken or pork. Risottos (and pasta) are often served as a first dish (primo) followed by a main course (secondo) in Italy. Like pasta, risotto is quite versatile. Once you know the basic cooking technique, you can easily adapt recipes to include various combinations of fresh seasonal vegetables.
Risotto gets its creamy texture from the starches that are released from the rice during the cooking process. In Italy carnaroli rice is commonly used for risotto. Arborio rice is somewhat easier to find here and is equally as good. Both are short-grain rice high in starch.
Prior to making the risotto, we must make a butternut squash purée. While making the purée is fairly easy, it takes a little time in the oven to cook. So, I usually make this ahead of time and freeze portions in air-tight containers for later use. Squash purée can be used to make soup or seasoned to taste and enjoyed as is.
This risotto is one of my favorites. I especially like using a gourmet blend of mushrooms that includes shiitake and cremini. Porcini and baby bella mushrooms are also wonderfully savory and earthy. The mushrooms pair wonderfully with the natural sweetness of butternut squash.
I typically use chicken broth as the cooking liquid for my risottos. However, if you are vegan or vegetarian you can substitute this with your preferred vegetable broth. One of the keys to achieving a creamy texture is to ladle hot broth into the risotto (one at a time) and stir. Before adding more broth, it is important to allow each addition to absorb into the risotto before adding any more.
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Butternut squash and mushroom risotto
This winter vegetable dish is creamy, earthy and flavorful. Serve it by itself or as a side complement to chicken or pork.
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1-2 cloves garlic (smashed)
- 1/2 medium onion (diced)
- 1 pinch salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/3 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1 quart (4 cups) warm chicken (or vegetable) broth
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb fresh mushrooms (sliced)
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (stripped)
- 1 cup butternut squash puree (from 1 squash)
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
Butternut squash puree
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. To make butternut squash puree, cut a butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds and strings. Place the squash on a jelly roll pan. Season all sides of the squash with approximately 2 tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground white pepper. Bake in the oven for approximately 1 – 1 1/4 hour or until the flesh of the squash is soft and fork tender. Half-way through the baking time, turn the heat down to 375 F. This helps avoid scorching. Use a spoon to scoop out the cooked squash. Discard the skins. Using a food processor blend the cooked squash briefly until it is smooth. Add a small amount of water (1/4 cup at most) if necessary to assist in blending. Measure out 1 cup of squash puree for this risotto recipe. The remaining squash puree can be used to make soup or seasoned to taste and enjoyed as is. Squash puree can also be frozen in an air-tight container for later use.
- In a large skillet, heat the butter and the olive oil over medium (to medium-low) heat. Add the garlic and onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove the garlic once it has toasted and softened. (The goal is to infuse the oil with garlic flavor. If it turns brown, it has cooked too far and will turn the dish bitter.) Once the onions are golden, add the rice stirring to coat it with the onions, oil and butter. After a couple minutes the rice will become translucent as it begins to absorb the flavors. Add the white wine and cook for about five minutes or until it is absorbed.
- Add a ladle of broth to the risotto (one at a time) and stir. (Allow each addition of broth to absorb into the risotto before adding more. As you do this, the rice releases its natural starches making the dish creamy.) 3/4 of the way through cooking the dish add the mushrooms and thyme. Thin the butternut squash puree with a ladle of broth and add it and the nutmeg to the risotto. Continue stirring. Once the liquid has been fully absorbed by the rice and it is cooked (al dente), turn off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
A mix of mushrooms is delicious, such as a gourmet or shiitake/cremini blend. If you use dried mushrooms (like porcini), they must be hydrated prior to using. Like this recipe? Sign up for our email newsletter and receive recipes like this delivered right to your inbox.