Risottos sound complicated but they’re actually quite easy to make. This silky butternut squash risotto will become your favourite yet. It has that slight sweetness from the squash and that colour! The perfect dish for cold evenings for sure.
I love to make risottos. It’s one of those dishes that look impressive but actually didn’t take that long to make. This butternut squash risotto is particularly impressive with that pop of orange. You can serve it as a main course or as a side dish for your favourite protein. It goes really nice with a mild white fish 🙂 The lemon zest in the risotto really ties them together.
Let’s talk rice! The ideal rice for risotto is the type called Carnaroli or if that’s not available, Arborio. The difference between them is that Carnaroli rice is a bit more forgiving in the cooking process. It will not turn to mush as easily as the Arborio rice. Having said that, they both work really well.
Making risotto ahead of time is possible. What you have to do is cook it halfway through first. You want to taste a bit and feel that the rice grains are no longer solid but still have a bit of crunch. At that point you turn off the heat and reserve it. Once it’s ready to serve you add more stock, cook it for a couple of minutes of until al dente and finish with the parmesan cheese and butter. Alternatively you can make a quinotto or quinoa risotto which can be completely ready beforehand as it’s really hard to overcook quinoa.
Another thing that’s important for the success of this dish is que butternut squash. I cooked it in the oven and the reason for that is that the oven (in contrast to boiling water) will intensify its flavour. Also the top tends to caramelize a bit (YUM!). As if this wasn’t enough oven cooking also results in a more intense orange colour for the purée and thus the risotto, too.
Final thing before we go on to the recipe: this is my dog Pepper, named after IronMan’s girlfriend 🙂 She would never eat food that’s on my set but she always comes around for a sniff.
For the vegetable stock
- 200 g carrots chopped
- 200 g yellow onion chopped
- 200 g celery chopped
- 1 bayleaf
- 4 lt water
For the butternut squash
- 1 butternut squash or other type of pumpkin or squash
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Thyme sprigs
For the risotto
- 100 g yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 2 bayleaves
- 1 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 150 ml white wine
- 250 g butternut squash purée
- Vegetable stock
- 40 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
- 20 g unsalted butter cold
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- Fresh organo leaves
- Extra Parmesan cheese Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
For the stock
- Place everything in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
- Let simmer for 30min and strain.
For the butternut squash
- Cut the butternut squash in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds. Make a criss-cross pattern using a knife on the inside so the heat, olive oil and salt can penetrate.
- Place both halves on a baking dish with the inside facing upwards. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the thyme sprigs on top so they flavour the squash.
- Cook in a preheated oven at 200C / 390F for 30-40min or until really soft. You'll know it's done because a knife should go straight through the flesh.
- Discard the thyme and use a spoon to remove all of the flesh from the butternut squash. Use a blender, food processor or immersion blender to puré it. Make sure to use only what the recipe asks for and the rest you can make into soup with the remaining stock from this recipe as well ;).
For the risotto
- In a large pot over medium heat drizzle olive oil and use it to cook the onions, thyme, lemon zest and bayleaves. Cook them until they are translucent and smell sweet.
- Add the rice and stir for a minute.
- Add the white wine and stir until the white wine completely evaporates.
- Add 2 ladles of stock (which should be hot ideally) and the butternut squash purée.
- Stir constantly until the liquid evaporates and then add more stock. Keep adding 1 ladle of stock at a time and stirring until the rice is cooked al dente. You will have to try it in the process and eat a few raw rice grains but it's worth it!
- Finish with the parmesan cheese and butter. Taste and add pepper and more salt if needed.
- Assess if you need to add some final ladle of stock. The texture should be such that if you ran a spoon or spatula down the center of the pot the risotto should easily cover the space back up.
- Serve immediately and garnish with fresh oregano leaves and extra Parmesan cheese.