Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

Back after a few days off and I'm happy to offer a great fall recipe using a vegetable that makes a grand appearance in the fall and early winter: butternut squash or 'winter' squash. One of the great qualities of this thick skinned vegetable (actually a gourd) is that it's able to be stored for at least a month if kept in a cool, dry place. Winter squash provides an excellent source of the carotenoid beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A. A single serving (about one cup) is about 75 calories and contains fiber and potassium, some vitamin C, magnesium, folate, calcium, and iron. A pretty healthy vegetable all around.

About two weeks ago on the Rachel Ray show, I caught the end of a segment where Rachel prepared Milanese style Butternut Squash Risotto. It got my attention, not just because of the attractiveness of the dish, but also because I'd never prepared butternut squash in any form ever. I decided to give it a try.

The recipe follows but I changed it up a bit. Instead of saffron, I used two tablespoons of lemon zest. I wasn't sure if I'd like saffron though it enhanced the color of the risotto and I also didn't have any in the house and wasn't sure if it was even available in my supermarket but I was pleased with the resulting lemony flavor. I also used pinot noir wine which I had on hand but I don't think that made any difference at all. 

Toasting the cubed squash (to garnish the risotto) tossed with nutmeg, olive oil and salt and pepper was a fantastic dish by itself and I confess to eating more than I should have! I'll try that as a side dish later this fall.

Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium-large butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for coating the cubed squash 
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts or pine nuts
4 cups chicken stock (32 ounces)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 cups water
2-3 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Noir)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375°F. 
  • Cut the squash in half, separating the upper half from the bulbous bottom. Use a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife to trim away the skin. Cut off the top stem and chop it into bite-size pieces, then halve the bulbous end, seed and chop. Coat the pumpkin or squash in olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. 
  • Arrange the pumpkin or squash on a baking sheet or cooling rack over a baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, until very tender. Puree half of it in a food processor until smooth; reserve the remainder in a dish. Toast the nuts in the oven for the last few minutes of roasting time. 
  • Combine the stock, water and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and keep the liquids warm. 
  • In a skillet heat the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and soften for a few minutes; stir in the arborio rice and toast for a minute or two, then add the wine and let it absorb completely. Add the stock in small batches of a few ladles at a time, stirring a minute or two for each addition of stock. Cook the liquids out and continue to add more a ladle or two at a time for 18 minutes. Stir in the butter, cheese and puree of squash.
  • Serve the risotto in shallow bowls topped with the roasted squash, nuts and parsley.


  1. Hey Susan! I've been making a butternut squash-jalapeno soup lately and it has my inlaws going crazy for it. Basically, peel and dice the squash, seed and chop up two jalapenos and add everything to a pot with about six cups of chicken broth (and maybe a clove of garlic). Once everything is soft, puree it in a blender and it's all set. The jalapeno gives just a mild kick, and there's room to add maybe a bit of cream or ricotta or plain yogurt. It's an easy dish that warms you up quick.

  2. Thanks for the tip, I've become a big fan of the vegetable. Will give it a try!