Winter Squash & Sage Risotto
Hello cozy, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs, creamy and rich, sage-filled, squash loving, vegetarian (or vegan!) comfort food.
Introducing your favorite new late-fall and winter dish. Now that we are officially entering the winter and holiday season, nourishing and warm meals are more necessary than ever. Whether you’re bustling around preparing for the holiday’s and need a meal on hand, (eek!) maybe perhaps trekking though snow covered scenes, or looking for a way to heat up your cold kitchen – this risotto has your name all over it. So put on some cozy pants and a soft sweater and head to your kitchen to get cookin.’
Risotto, if you’ve never made it before, is quite the labor of love. It’s slightly demanding, a little tedious, and will require some 20-40 minutes of your undivided attention, but it’s absolutely worth it in the end. Italians have all sorts of rules and procedures for making risotto, (always add in mantecatura – a fat – at the end! Serve risotto l’onda – it should create a wave!) but in truth, it’s quite a simple rice dish that any sort of cook can throw together. Sure, cooking the rice to the perfect al dente and creamy texture may take practice, but once you get the hang of it, friends and family all over will worship your kitchen goddess-worthy risotto making abilities.
This risotto is quite the dream, and an inexpensive way to completely warm your heart, soul, and stomach with nourishing, healthy food. Using a common winter staple, a winter squash, plus earthy sage adds the most magical flavor and aroma to our creamy risotto, plus keeps things seasonal and local-centric. Have an extra winter squash lying around that you’ve been dying to use? Great – This risotto is it.
This winter squash risotto is versatile. In fact, you can use any variety of winter squash, with the exception of spaghetti squash, to slightly change up the flavor each and every time you make the recipe. I’ve used butternut squash, which renders a sweet and caramel taste, and red kuri squash, which provides the perfect hint of chestnut flavor. Whether you’ve accumulated dozens of delicata or kilos of kabocha squash, they’ll all work perfectly in this dish. Note, depending on the squash that you use, you may need to peel it beforehand. Read on:
Butternut squash – This classic winter squash is sweet, creamy, and needs to be peeled before roasting. Use a sharp knife and a very steady cutting board.
Delicata squash – No need to peel, this squash is delicate – hence the name.
Turban squash – Peel this squash with a very sharp knife and a steady cutting board. Be careful!
Red kuri squash – The skin of this winter squash is perfectly delicious: no need to peel.
Spaghetti squash – For future reference, there is no need to peel this squash. Roast it and scoop out spaghetti strands and discard squash. Do NOT use this variety of squash in this recipe!
Sugar pie pumpkin – Not just for sweet pies, sugar pie pumpkins are great in savory recipes like this risotto. Before cubing, steady your knife and peel.
Acorn squash – No need to peel this green hued beauty.
Kabocha squash – Peel! You may want to cube and roast with the skin on, and then scrape off the skin at the end. However – you may prefer the chewy texture that the peel gives – its completely edible and up to you!
Once you figure out which winter squash to use – so many options! – the rest is easy. Of course, along with adding the most wonderful flavor to risotto, winter squash is one healthy vegetable too. All winter squash are filled with immune system loving Vitamin C along with antioxidant fueled Vitamin A (can’t you tell by the vibrant yellow color?!) for eye, skin, and cell loving properties. Winter squash also pack in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats, B Vitamins, folate, manganese, copper, and fiber too. It’s a terrific way to reap vitamin and mineral powers in the chilly wintertime.
Hearty winter squash + earthy sage + simple stock + a bit of TLC = your favorite new comfort food and delicious seasonal soul soother.
Winter Squash & Sage Risotto
1 (2-3 pound) winter squash (I used red kuri squash)
1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ large white onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, homemade recommended
¼ cup sage, divided
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Half winter squash and scoop out seeds. Depending on the variety you are using, you may need to peel your squash before cubing. (See list above if you need to peel.) Cube winter squash and add to a baking tray. Drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-25 minutes, or until squash can easily be pierced with a fork.
While the squash is roasting, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or stockpot on the stove. Add diced onion and allow to gently cook, about 5 minutes. Add in Arborio rice and stir to coat with oil, lightly toasting the rice for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and allow to absorb completely, which should only take a minute or two.
Now it’s risotto time. Add hot stock to the rice one cup at a time continuously stirring all the while. When the stock is almost completely absorbed add in the next ladleful. Keep repeating until rice is al dente (with a bit of bite and almost done) and risotto is perfectly creamy. This process could take 20-40 minutes, so be patient and stir frequently! Taste often to see if the rice is cooked al dente – you don’t want to overcook or overwork the risotto.
While rice is still cooking, measure out a heaped cup of roasted winter squash and add to a food processor or blender along with 8-10 leaves of fresh sage. Blend or process until a thick and creamy puree is formed, adding in a splash of stock to thin out the mixture if needed. Add this squash puree to al dente risotto, along with cubed and roasted squash, Parmesan cheese (if using) and a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir completely to incorporate.
Divide risotto between bowls and garnish with ribbons of fresh sage and additional Parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy!
-Make it vegan! Omit Parmesan cheese.
-Not a sage lover? This recipe is also delicious when sage is swapped with fresh thyme.