When I moved home, a little over a year ago, I discovered a beautiful butternut squash growing in my family’s garden. We had no idea what to do with it. For no apparent reason I had a desire to make risotto, and I assumed you can use butternut squash in some way in a risotto. I researched several different recipes and took the pieces that made the most sense to me. And then I made it. It was the first time my parents had ever had risotto, and only the second time for my brother. It was a completely new type of food to them, and not as intimidating as when I make them Asian food. And the risotto was perfect. I’ve made it twice since then, once with my friends where I added coconut milk at the end which made it super creamy, and then this time for my family. Unfortunately I forgot the coconut milk, but it was still awesome.
Most folks are intimidated by risotto. I can sympathize, really, because I know it sounds like a long arduous task to make it. But I actually find it soothing. After prepping all the ingredients, all you have to do is stir for a while until it’s done. Just make sure everything is prepped first so you’re not scrambling to stir and chop at the same time. I usually start with setting the broth to simmer, and then going to town on the onions and set those aside in a bowl.
Then I get working on the squash. I have to admit, I absolutely hate peeling squash. But it’s so worth it. I try to chop it into smallish pieces, since it takes a long time to cook. So I recommend aiming for around 1/2 inch or smaller pieces. I am unfortunately terrible at cutting butternut squash so I was less than successful at my attempt to make the pieces even remotely the same size. Let’s just look at it before I chopped it up!
It’s good to cook the onion and squash together for a bit before you start doing the rice, since it gives them a chance to get tender. I try to cook them until the squash is just about to accept a good fork stabbing, then I take them out to get the rice started without major pan crowding.
Do you like the horrible unevenness of my squash pieces? Oops…
After I take them out I get started on the rice. One thing people generally have difficulty with is knowing when to add more broth. I’m all about making risotto in the ladle of broth at a time method, and a friend helped me figure out the broth adding issue. When you drag the spoon through the rice, and it doesn’t quickly fill in with excess liquid, then it’s time to add more. I hope my picture helps illustrate what I’m talking about, it was a little hard to take while stirring and the steam fogging up the lens.
After adding a few ladles of broth I add the onion and squash back in. I try not to wait too long because the squash needs all the time possible to soften up.
When the rice and squash are nice and tender, all you have to do is remove if from the heat and melt in cheese and butter! I use Pecorino Romano cheese, and that’s what I wrote in the recipe, but Parmesan would also be fine. And then you eat! Unless you’re me, then you put it into a tiny, adorable bowl and try your best to take pictures of risotto and make it look appealing. Don’t worry, those flecks in it are just nutmeg and cinnamon.
Since I made this for my brother’s birthday, we also had ribs with it by his request. So of course I took silly pictures with a rib. It was my first time eating ribs. I found the experience very messy, yet tasty, but overall not really worth the effort. I guess I’ll never understand the appeal.
9 cups chicken broth
2 cups Arborio or medium grain rice
1 onion, diced
1 medium butternut squash, cut into ½ inch cubes
¾ cup white wine, room temperature
2 Tbsp plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
¾ cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Simmer broth on stove. In a large, wide skillet heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Cook onions and squash, with a little salt, on medium high heat until just about tender. Remove from pan.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in pan, add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated in oil. Stir in wine. When the wine is mostly absorbed stir in a ladle of broth. Stir continuously and add more broth as it gets absorbed. After adding a couple of ladles, add the onion and squash back in along with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Continue adding broth and stirring until rice and squash are tender. Remove from heat, and melt in butter and cheese. Serve warm.