Butternut Squash Risotto (an almost no-stir recipe)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The other day a friend asked me, “is it true that risotto is one of the hardest things to make?”

The question surprised me just a bit for two reasons: 1) I had not heard that said and, likely a result of not having heard this,  2) I had made this dish a few nights before and it was far from the hardest thing I’ve ever made.  This, however, is the perfect example of my cooking philosophy: assume you can make anything you want and 9 times out of 10, it won’t be as hard as you think and it will turn out delicious.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess?  If I had heard that this was a challenging dish to create, I doubt I would have gussied up the courage to do it with so little hesitation, so instead I plunged in head first, pulled it off, and have a new favorite dish which I promise is easy to make for a quick, hearty, weeknight meal with plenty of leftovers.

Butternut Squash Risotto
(an almost no-stir recipe)
Recipes from Cook’s Illustrated Sept 2005 and May 2010 issues, combined and slightly modified
Serves 6 as a side dish (or 2 as a main dish plus a week of side dish serving sized leftovers)

**Note: This recipe was the inaugural use of my Le Creuset and I highly recommend utilizing yours, if you have one, for this recipe.  Cooks Illustrated mentions it as a key component to the success of the recipe.

[Cook's Illustrated Note:] This recipe does not employ the traditional risotto method; the rice is mainly stirred for 3 minutes toward the end of cooking instead of constantly throughout. This more hands-off method does require precise timing, so we strongly recommend using a timer. The consistency of risotto is largely a matter of personal taste; if you prefer a looser texture, add extra broth in step 4.  To make this dish vegetarian, vegetable broth can be used instead of chicken broth, but the resulting risotto will have more pronounced sweetness.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash (medium, about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Table salt
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg


  1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add about 3 1/2 cups squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer squash to bowl and set aside.
  2. Return skillet to medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and any leftover diced squash. Cook, stirring frequently to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to large saucepan and add chicken broth and water; cover saucepan and bring mixture to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain bare simmer.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onion and ¾ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened but not browned, 4 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir 5 cups strained hot broth mixture into rice; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 16 to 19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
  5. Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente and to your desired texture (some like it looser, others thicker). Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg; gently fold in remaining cooked squash. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto. Serve immediately with some Parmesan sprinkled over top.

I saved the leftover squash-infused broth (I had maybe 1 1/2 cups left) and as I heated up the leftovers, I splashed a bit of the broth in the pan to help loosen up the texture again.  Anyone who knows me and my eating habits knows that I can’t stand leftovers, but I have been eating this risotto for a week now!  Reheats easily and the flavors meld over time in the fridge.


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