Butternut Squash Risotto, Illustrated

20091007-Butternut Squash Risotto

My boss recently turned me on to Cook’s Illustrated. How I had never pur­chased this mag­a­zine is beyond me. While I adore the amaz­ing food pho­tog­ra­phy, I really enjoy how the focus of CI is per­fect­ing the taste of recipes. No adver­tis­ing, no non­sense, just great recipes and help­ful tips. The cur­rent issue is “Italian Favorites” and while thumb­ing through I came across a recipe for a but­ter­nut squash risotto and instantly knew I wanted to make it. With the recent uptick in our win­ter squash sup­ply through the CSA (I know, every­thing I have posted lately has con­tained squash), I’ve been cov­et­ing any and all squash recipes that uti­lize it in new and excit­ing ways and this one fit the bill. I nor­mally won’t just pre­pare a recipe exactly as it is writ­ten, but this time I couldn’t really see what to change — it read perfect!

I never want to just re-post a recipe that I didn’t devise. That is not what this blog is about. But, this recipe is just so good! Bursting with fall fla­vor, this risotto may be the best I’ve ever eaten period. It was every­thing I look for in a risotto, creamy, but not mushy, full of fla­vor but not over­pow­er­ing the the taste of the Arborio rice itself. Before i pro­ceed to the recipe, i have a cou­ple notes about this recipe. First, don’t skimp on the wine. Use good qual­ity wine that you would actu­ally want to drink. Also, this recipe makes enough for four full entreé size por­tions or 6 side dishes.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium but­ter­nut squash (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved) and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 tsp. table salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pep­per
4 cups chicken or veg­etable broth (use veg­etable for a 100% veg­e­tar­ian meal)
1 cup water
4 ounces baby spinach
4 tbsp. unsalted but­ter
1 medium yel­low onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium cloves of gar­lic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
2 tbsp. minced fresh sage
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Toast pine nuts in a small, dry skil­let over medium heat until golden, about 5 min­utes; set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a 12-inch non­stick skil­let over medium-high heat until shim­mer­ing but not smok­ing. Add squash in even layer and cook with­out stir­ring until golden brown, 4 to 5 min­utes; stir in 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pep­per. Continue to cook, stir­ring occa­sion­ally, until squash is ten­der and browned, about 5 min­utes. Transfer quash to bowl and set aside.


Return skil­let to medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and cook, stir­ring fre­quently to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 5 min­utes. Transfer to a large saucepan and add broth and water; cover and bring to a sim­mer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to main­tain a bare simmer.

Add 1 tsp. oil to skil­let and add spinach. Cook, cov­ered, over medium heat until leaves begin to wilt, abotu 2 min­utes. Uncover and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, until fully wilted, about 30 sec­onds. Transfer spinach to a mesh strainer and set aside to drain.

Melt 3 tbsp. but­ter in now empty skil­let over medium heat. add onion, gar­lic and remain­ing salt and pep­per. Cook, stir­ring occa­sion­ally, until onions are soft­ened, about 5 min­utes. Add rice to skil­let and cook, stir­ring fre­quently, until grains are translu­cent around edges, about 3 min­utes. Add wine and cook, stir­ring fre­quently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.



Remove Broth from heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, press­ing solids to extract as much liq­uid (fla­vor!) as pos­si­ble. Return strained broth to cov­ered saucepan over low heat; dis­card solids.

When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice. Simmer, stir­ring every 3 to 4 min­utes until liq­uid is com­pletely absorbed, about 12 minutes.

Stir in another 1/2 cup of broth and cook, stir­ring con­stantly until com­pletely absorbed, about 3 min­utes. Repeat with remain­ing broth, 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is al dente. remove from heat and stir in remain­ing 1 tbsp. but­ter, Parmesan, sage and nut­meg. Gently fold in spinach then the remain­ing squash. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts.


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  1. Posted October 10, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    mmmm, looks tasty! Another squash appli­ca­tion I’m going to have to steal from you…

    : )

    • Posted October 10, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      jenn, you should. it’s so freak­ing good!

  2. Posted October 15, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    beau­ti­ful tuto­r­ial, Ben. I’ll add this to my list (along with butternut-leek lasagna, but­ter­nut strata) So many deli­cious pos­si­bil­i­ties with but­ter­nut – my fave of the win­ter squashes.

  3. Posted October 15, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    oooh, nancy! i want that butternut-leek lasagna recipe! that sounds awe­some! i too love the but­ter­nut. thanks to our CSA we cur­rently have 2 but­ter­nuts, 1 hub­bard, 1 cushaw, 2 small pump­kins and a spaghetti squash. hooray for fall squashes!

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