Before last year, I had never made a risotto at home.
Risotto is one of those dishes you hear horror stories about. Everyone comments on how it require so much stirring and it’s easy to accidentally burn or have stick to the bottom of the pot.
These scare tactics had kept me away from homemade risotto deliciousness for far too long.
Then, one day, Aaron beat me to it.
We have this thing we like to do, where Aaron cooks dinner for us once or twice a week. He usually picks something at random from one of the bajillion cookbooks
we I own, and surprises me with some deliciousness.
My mouth dropped when I came home to a delicious batch of homemade Cauliflower, Onion, and Greens Risotto.
And he said it was EASY!
Whaaaat?? Had I been deceived all these years??? (The answer is yes)
Sigh. Now it was my turn to conquer risotto.
In all honesty, it IS actually really easy. Yes, it requires patient stirring, but really, how hard is stirring?? Use a nonstick pan and you don’t even have to worry about sticking. Winning.
Here’s the basic framework for a risotto:
- Saute some onions. In a little butter or oil. But don’t let them caramelize, you just want them to soften and become translucent.
- Add the arborio rice. Sauté for a couple minutes with the onions to give each grain of rice some texture.
- Evaporate off some alcohol. Add a generous splash of white wine or vermouth for depth of flavor, and wait till it’s pretty much cooked off.
- Ladle in warm broth, 1 scoop at a time. This is the part everyone trips over, but it’s actually so easy. You just scoop some broth into the rice pan, and continue to stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until you’ve added all the broth and the rice is tender.
- Stir in your mix-ins. This is where you get to add tons of salty savory cheese, roasted veggies, browned meats, fresh herbs, etc. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!
Okay really, how simple is that?
And the best part? The endless combinations of flavors you can riff on. Basic risotto with just butter and cheese is basically a blank canvas, waiting for deliciousness. And it’s an easy gluten-free Italian option that everyone can enjoy at dinner.
Since it’s just become fall, and squash is everywhere, I went classic with the classic pairing of butternut squash and sage.
Roasted butternut squash is naturally creamy, so it blends right in with the smooth rich texture of risotto. Its subtle sweetness pairs well with the richness of the cheesy buttery rice, and the sage is just the right pop of freshness to round it out.
Give this recipe a try this week. Promise you can do it, and you won’t be disappointed w. the results.
Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto
- One 2 1/2 pound butternut squash, ends removed, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for finishing
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 lb arborio rice
- 10 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus 1 additional tablespoon minced fresh sage, reserved
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup dry white wine, like chardonnay
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (or parmesan romano blend)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Put the tray in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. When it is done cooking, remove from the oven and set aside.
Next, add 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Warm over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and translucent but not at all browned. If they start to get any color, turn down the heat and continue cooking until softened. This should only take a few minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the chicken or vegetable stock into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Once the onions are softened, add the arborio rice, sage, and garlic to the pan. Increase the heat to medium & sauté for a minute or two, until the garlic and sage are fragrant and the rice is coated with the butter and spices.
Add the white wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Next, add one ladle of warm stock to the pot and stir until the rice has absorbed most of it. Continue adding the stock, one or two ladles at a time,stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice before adding more. Continue until all the broth has been added and absorbed and the rice is tender but still has a little bite, about 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and stir in 1 additional tablespoon of butter, the parmesan cheese, and additional 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage. Stir to combine well, the gently fold in the roasted butternut squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy right away.