Butternut Squash Risotto


Excerpted from THE HEART OF THE PLATE, (c) 2013 by Mollie Katzen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

I have two recipes for butternut squash risotto, and I go back and forth between them, depending on whether I feel like heating the oven and roasting the squash or cooking it on the stovetop for a softer, less dramatic effect. I like them equally. (Dairy)

In the first method, you make everything in a single pot. In the second, you roast the squash separately ahead of time and then fold it into a plain risotto. The roasting itself imparts a certain extra essence—"hot oven" is actually a kind of seasoning—but the rest of the flavor profile (brown butter, sage, sharp cheddar) is the same.

The squash can be made as much as a day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Be sure it is warmed at least to room temperature before you begin the risotto.

The recipe uses only part of what you'll end up with when you peel and chop an average-sized (31/2-pound) butternut squash. Save any extra and use it for another dish and/or freeze it for later.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping cup minced onion
1 teaspoon rubbed dried sage
2 generous cups diced (3/4-inch) butternut squash
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 quart vegetable stock or low-sodium store-bought
11/2 cups risotto rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) grated sharp cheddar
Black pepper


Stovetop Version
Melt the butter in a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl to coat the pan, then wait another few seconds for the butter to brown slightly. Add the onion and sage and cook, stirring, over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until the onion just begins to soften.
Add the squash and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Stir briefly to coat the squash, then cover and cook over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the squash softens slightly. (The squash will finish cooking in the risotto.)
Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a covered saucepan over medium-low heat, then reduce the heat to low. Have a ladle ready, resting on a plate. Keep the simmering stock covered between applications.
Add the rice to the skillet with the squash and stir over medium heat for about a minute to coat it with everything else in the pan. Add another ¼ teaspoon salt and the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, about 30 seconds.
Ladle in enough hot stock to cover, stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it, but should not taste at all raw. (If you run out of stock and the risotto seems to need a little more cooking, you can add some water at this point, ½ cup at a time.) Remove from the heat while the grains still show some resistance. Don't overcook.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. Taste
for salt and season to taste with black pepper. Serve right away.

Roasted Squash Version

Prepare a batch of roasted butternut squash well ahead of time.
Make the risotto as described in the stovetop version, but using a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and cook the onions for 5 minutes. Skip step 3. Add the salt in step 4. When you get to the end, fold in about 2 cups of the roasted squash when you add the cheese. Serve the remaining roasted squash on top or on the side, as desired.


Optional Enhancements:
Extra cheddar on top, Lemon wedges, Sprinkle with toasted walnuts
Apple-Parsley Saladita: Core and chop a crisp apple or two and toss with a small splash of fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar. Throw in a handful of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

Recipe: kosher, dairy


Side Dishes