Cooler Weather and New Ingredients

As someone who cooks almost daily, I find the changing of the seasons particularly motivating. Having a bevy of new ingredients to draw from makes coming up with new meal ideas day after day much more enjoyable. Butternut squash is the quintessential fall ingredient, and a simple risotto is a wonderful way to highlight its unique flavor.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto:

1 Tbsp. butter PLUS 1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, medium dice

3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 C. arborio rice

1/4 C. marsala (or substitute 1/2 C. dry red wine)

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, kept very warm on the stove

3 C. butternut squash, peeled and cut into approximately 1/2” cubes.  This can be cut most easily from the neck of the squash.

pinch of nutmeg (as much as you can hold between your thumb and forefinger)

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

In a large saute pan or dutch oven with a heavy bottom, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic, sauteing for another few minutes. 

Add the arborio rice and toast the rice, stirring very regularly, until it starts to brown lightly in some places, 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with marsala, stirring to draw up any bits off of the bottom of the pan.

Add the butternut squash, the nutmeg, and 1 C. of the warm broth, stirring gently but constantly, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.

Continue to add the broth, 1 C. at a time, stirring the mixture thoroughly about every 30 seconds.  As soon as the broth is absorbed and the rice barely starts to stick, it’s time to add more broth. This can take anywhere for 2-5 minutes per addition, depending on the heat of your burner and the size of your pan. You may not use quite all of the broth for this recipe, but it will be close.

The rice and squash should take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to cook. You want the rice to be al dente and the squash to be just barely tender. The risotto should be on the thin side, more like porridge than a sticky pile.

When the risotto is done to your liking, stir in your vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.  You can also add a handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which is delightful, but I wanted to focus on the flavor of the squash for this first risotto of the season.

Note: When making risotto, the regular stirring is necessary to help distribute the starch that is being released from the rice.  This is what gives risotto its creamy texture. Since the cook needs to stay nearby for this recipe, a great tip is to make something else that can cook without much attention in the meantime. Getting a chicken or a pork loin in the oven to roast before you begin is a great idea.

If reheating leftover risotto, you will need to add more broth to thin it, about 3 Tbsp. per serving.

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