REMEMBER WHEN I TOLD YOU ABOUT MY FIRST RISOTTO experience a few months ago? I had been thinking about it again and I still had aborio rice on hand, so I made it again. This time, I used butternut squash.
I looked at many recipes for butternut squash risotto and wound up incorporating elements from several different ones. Some call for roasting the squash, some cook the squash right along with the rice, but that method seemed a little risky. Another recipe I saw called for grating the butternut squash! I'm sure that would work beautifully, but I sure don't want to grate one of those things.
And of course, what has practically become my nemesis in modern cookery, chicken broth, was well represented amongst risotto recipes. I did not want my butternut squash risotto to taste like chicken.
I used spring water, seasoned with bay leaves and thyme, to make my risotto. Vegetable stock would be good and if you like chicken broth--go for it. I used both poached and roasted butternut squash, as well as onion, celery, and garlic.
I was very happy about the results and believe this is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in a while. I will be making this again--probably for Thanksgiving, and I won't change a thing about the recipe other than adjusting for number of servings. As given this is enough for 2 to 3 people to have as an entree, or 5 to 6 as a side.
Butternut Squash Risotto
1 (approx. 2 lb.) butternut squash
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups spring or filtered water
1 or 2 bay leaves, to taste
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme, to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup aborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel squash and separate the bulbous end from the slender end. Cut the slender end into cubes, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven until golden brown on the outside and tender inside, about 30 minutes.
Cut the bulbous end of the squash in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds, and cut squash into half-inch pieces. Heat the water, bay leaves, and thyme over medium heat. Drop in the squash pieces and leave to poach.
Over medium-low heat, warm a skillet then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until they become transparent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the celery and garlic. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Increase the heat slightly and stir in the rice. Stir uncovered for about 5 minutes as this helps develop the toasty aroma of the rice.
Stir in the wine and let it bubble away to almost nothing. Reduce the heat and begin added the warm water, a ladle at a time, stirring gently and constantly during each addition. It will take about 20 minutes to reach the final ladle. By then, the squash in the water will have softened. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and using the back of the ladle, smash the squash, then stir into the risotto.
Dot the top of the risotto with butter, add a few grinds of black pepper, and sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese. Cover, remove from heat, and leave to rest for about 3 minutes, then stir through, checking the seasoning.
Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the roasted squash and additional grated Parmesan.