This butternut squash risotto is homey, simple, and delicious. Unlike most risottos, it doesn’t require tons of stirring, so you can get things done while it cooks!
I had never tried butternut squash until my aunt made butternut squash soup for us when she visiting a few Thanksgivings ago (I posted my own rendition of this soup not that long ago)…but once I did I was hooked. It’s delicious in soup, roasted, or mashed. I’ve seen recipes for butternut squash lasagna (with a creamy béchamel sauce instead of tomato sauce), which I must make soon. Butternut squash is considered a “winter” squash, even though it’s in season during the summer.
I knew that “winter” squashes are generally harvested in the late summer, but I wasn’t really sure why they were called winter squashes or what the technical difference between winter and summer squash was. A little bit of research led me to a sensible answer, though…while winter squash is grown and harvested in the summer, it is harvested at a more mature stage than summer squashes like crookneck, zucchini, and zephyr. The thick skins on these more mature squashes make winter squashes ideal for storage into the colder months of the year.
I love the sweet creaminess of butternut squash. I love how it mashes, I love how it purées, and I love how it pairs perfectly with so many other things, like pasta (see aforementioned butternut squash lasagna) and rice, like this risotto.
We love risotto around here….a lot of people think of it as fancy or exotic, but it’s really so simple. I consider it a “go-to” food for those nights when I don’t really feel like doing any major cooking (it ranks right up there with breakfast for dinner, or “brinner” (thanks, Scrubs!). Risotto has a reputation for being labor-intensive (albeit easy labor) because traditionally it requires standing over the stove and stirring…and stirring…and stirring. And that’s exactly what I used to do, because honestly, stirring can be kind of cathartic. However, when you need to pack lunches, fold towels, and empty the dishwasher, catharsis may not be what you are looking for.
Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book The Food Lab saved me from the stirring. The recipe here is mine, but I have to give Kenji all the credit for turning this butternut squash risotto into a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. Is it quick? Not extremely; the total cook time is about 40 minutes. However, most of that time is hands-off, leaving you two free hands so you can pack the lunches, fold the towels, and empty the dishwasher. Or, you can read a book, or drink a glass of wine with one hand while eating the crispy prosciutto with the other. The beauty of this butternut squash risotto is that it’s a full meal in one pot, served up in a bowl. If you want to bulk it up a little more, you can slip a fried or poached egg on top, but really…all you need is some good bread and you’re golden. I had enough squash left over to make butternut squash soup, too, which is perfect for easy Thermos lunches.
When you need an easy but elegant weekday dinner, this hands-off butternut squash risotto is a great option!
Featured in this recipe:
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Yield: 4-6 servings
Cooking method adapted from The Food Lab by Kenji Lopez-Alt
10 minPrep Time:
40 minCook Time:
50 minTotal Time:
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups arborio or other medium grain rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4oz prosciutto (diced)
- 1 small or 1/2 medium onion (diced)
- 1/2 Small butternut squash (peeled & cut into a fairly small dice)
- 1 cup white wine (I used Vermouth) - optional. If you don't want to use wine use another cup of stock.
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated, to taste)
- flat-leaf parsley (chopped, to taste (optional))
- In a large bowl, pour the chicken stock over the rice. Swish with your hand or a spoon to rinse some of the starch off of the rice. Place a fine mesh strainer into another large bowl and drain the rice in the strainer, reserving the chicken stock. Allow to drain for at least five minutes.
- Set a 4-6 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and cook the prosciutto until crisp. Remove using a slotted spoon and add the onion and butternut squash. Cook until the butternut squash begins to soften, then increase the heat to medium-high and add the rice. Cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the wine to the pan and cook until the wine reduces by half. Stir the reserved chicken stock and add all but one cup to the pan. Shake the pan to distribute the stock then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for ten minutes.
- Remove the lid, add the remaining cup of the stock, stir once, and cover again. Cook for another ten minutes. If the stock has not been completely absorbed, cover and cook for another five minutes.
- Once all of the liquid has been absorbed, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately topped with Prosciutto, grated cheese and chopped parsley.
To make this vegetarian, omit the prosciutto.