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Risotto; tender, delicious Arborio rice, slow-cooked until the texture is perfectly creamy and just plain wonderful. We’ve all tasted it at some point and we’ve probably felt a little guilty that we loved it so much. For me, risotto is a meal by itself. I could gobble up a bowl of it, paired with nothing more than a Frisée salad and be perfectly happy. Well, and a glass of wine, but I digress. But, what if you were to level up and add a sweet, slightly caramelized butternut squash to the risotto? Something fresh. Something healthy and super filling. Butternut squash, available year round and usually bagged and cubed in the grocer, is a comfort ingredient for me. That is to say, I feel like I’ve gone to my Grandmother’s for supper every time I taste it. And roasting it and adding it to an already elevated rice dish which uses wine and garlic and Parmesan cheese? Well, let’s just say that the result is insane.
Our friends have a ridiculously productive garden. We are oftentimes fortunate beneficiaries of their yield in times when, for example, they have harvested 10 giant butternut squash and there are still 10 more on the vine. I happily accept everything that is handed over in the trug. In return, a loaf or casserole of whatever I create is delivered to their kitchen as a sign of gratitude. Recently, I posted a recipe for a Sweet, Sticky, Spicy Bourbon Glaze. Following that post, I received many (recipe/preparation method) requests for the salmon we showed in the photos with the glaze. What I was unprepared for was how many inquiries I would receive as to what I served alongside the salmon. I’ll let you guess 🙂
So, back to risotto for just a minute. You’ve likely read through other recipes for risotto which have lengthy stove-slash-stirring time required. Not this method. Hear me out, because you will be upset with yourself if you don’t at least try this one. It’s all done – from beginning to end – in the oven. No arming yourself with a spoon for an hour in front of a hot burner, just turn on the oven. And it’s a lovely risotto I prepared for the post A Sweet, Sticky, Spicy Bourbon Glaze using a fresh butternut squash straight from our friends garden. I was prepared to snip some chives into this at the end, but had an idea to harvest a dozen or so leaves from my fresh sage pots. The sage leaves were the deal maker in this case, as I crisped them just before serving and I swear it was as if I were eating Fall, September to November, and hanging on every bite of it.
The risotto is so simple, with Arborio rice, squash, butter, broth, onions, white wine, and good Parmesan. Use REAL Parmesan cheese, not something shaken from a can. Trust me, there is a difference. In this oven method, the butternut squash kind of becomes the sauce too. Should you try this, be sure to leave feedback, as I’d love to know your thoughts as well as what you served it with.
Ingredients for Silky, Satisfying Butternut Squash Risotto
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use Dorot)
4 cups homemade chicken broth, skimmed of fat, divided
1 cup water
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 small (about 2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
1 cup freshly grated good Parmesan cheese
½ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted sweet cream butter, diced
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
16 to 20 fresh whole sage leaves
Place oven racks in the lower third and upper third positions. In this method, the risotto will bake on the middle rack and the butternut squash will roast on the upper rack at the same time. Once the racks are arranged, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with ** parchment paper or foil sprayed well with a non-stick spray for the butternut squash. Reserve 1 cup broth and set it aside for when the risotto is out of the oven.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-to-large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add 3 cups broth and 1 cup water, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the rice. Cover the pot and bake on the lower rack until rice is tender and cooked through, about 65 to 70 minutes. Do not open the oven and remove the Dutch oven lid for any reason during cooking time, as critical moisture building in the pot will be allowed to escape.
Toss the cubed butternut with 2 tablespoons olive oil on your lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a hefty couple to three pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper and arrange the butternut in a single layer on the pan. Roast on the upper rack until the squash is fork tender and the edges are deeply caramelized, tossing halfway or as often as needed. It should be noted that if you use ** foil sprayed with a non-stick spray, your squash will cook and caramelize quicker and a bit deeper than if using parchment. Check for doneness starting around 40 minutes.
While the risotto and butternut squash are in the oven, fry the sage leaves by heating 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the sage and toss to coat. Let the sage get dark green and crispy before transferring it to a plate covered with a paper towel. Do not brown the sage. Maintaining the green integrity makes for a beautiful presentation before serving. Sprinkle the fried sage lightly with salt and set it aside.
Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid and pour in the remaining cup of broth, the Parmesan, wine and butter. Stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Stir in the salt, a generous amount of pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Stir in the roasted butternut squash. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Pour the risotto into a pretty serving bowl and top with both some crumbled and some whole crisped leaves of fried sage.
** Whenever I prepare butternut squash, and for my taste, I am looking for the end result to be heavily caramelized, therefor I almost always use foil sprayed lightly with a non-stick spray IN ADDITION TO olive oil tossed with the squash.
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