Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Salve, friends!  I’m writing to you today from my beautiful Airbnb in the charming town of Lecce in Southern Italy.  This city is absolutely stunning.  I’m going to be spending a week here learning about the cuisine of the Puglia region and cooking until I’m blue in the face.

 Stay tuned for some posts in the coming weeks about the entire experience!  In the meantime, all you need to know about how happy I am to be here is that both burrata and orecchiette come from this region in Italy.  I can’t wait to get in the kitchen. 

City of Lecce in the Puglia region of Italy, known for its Baroque architecture 
Seeing as I’m in Italy, I thought it was only appropriate to share one of my favorite Italian dishes to make, which is super savory and creamy risotto.  But this, my friends, is not just any old risotto, it’s roasted butternut squash risotto, and it is just perfect for fall.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

I know risotto sounds complicated, what with all the constant stirring, but I promise it’s not that bad.  It’s the arborio rice that makes risotto, risotto, cooking slowly and releasing starches along the way. It creates a a sauce that is impossibly creamy given that it’s made without any cream.

What makes this butternut squash risotto stand above the rest is the addition of roasted butternut squash both at the beginning of cooking and at the end.  The squash added at the beginning cooks down with the arborio rice and stock and makes a sauce that is completely infused with butternut flavor.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

Risotto is a perfect slow Sunday evening meal, hearty and satisfying.  So my suggestion is to pour yourself a glass of wine and savor the cooking process with this one – it makes the end result that much sweeter.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed
    • About 6 cups in total
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 oz cubed pancetta
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
    • About 1 ½ cups in total
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken stock
    • Make sure the chicken stock is the best you can buy (or make it yourself), it really makes all the difference in the outcome of the risotto
  • 8-10 oz parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch sage, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

Start by roasting the butternut squash.  To do this, preheat the oven to 425 and peel & cube the squash.  Coat the squash with the avocado oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes.   

While the squash roasts, start building the foundation of the risotto.  Cook the pancetta in a large dutch oven over low heat for 10 minutes or until the fat has almost completely rendered and the cubes of pancetta are crispy but not burnt.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

After the pancetta is done cooking, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel.  Keep the rendered fat in the pan as you’ll use this to sauté the onions and garlic in a few minutes.  

Heat the chicken stock in a separate stock pot until it is just before the point of boiling.  When the risotto begins cooking, you’ll add hot stock a few ladles at time and keeping the stock hot during this process helps everything cook faster.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

After you remove the pancetta, return the pan with the rendered pancetta drippings to medium heat and add the diced onions. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent, and after that time add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.  Finally, add the white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

By the time your onions, garlic and white wine are simmering, the squash should be about done roasting.  Check a few pieces to make sure they’re cooked all the way through and bronzed on the outside.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

After the wine simmers, add the arborio rice to the pan and stir everything together.  Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium low heat, and then add the first ladles of chicken stock to the rice along with about a quarter of the roasted squash.  Adding some of the squash now means it will break down as the rice cooks and melt into the sauce that forms.

Cook for a few minutes over low heat until the liquid begins to disappear.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta 

It’s about now during the cooking process that you’ll want your drinking wine 🙂  You’re going to continue adding a few ladles of broth every 3-4 minutes and stirring as you add.  You never want the rice to dry out, just keep stirring and adding broth until the rice starts to become tender.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

The picture above is what the rice looks like about halfway through cooking.  The grains are fluffy but not yet tender and the sauce is forming but it hasn’t all quite mixed together yet.

Keep adding the warm chicken stock and stirring the risotto over low heat for 30-40 minutes.  Check the rice for tenderness and the sauce for saltiness.  You can add water if you think the butternut squash risotto is getting too salty.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

After the rice is cooked and you’ve used all the broth, the risotto is (almost!) ready.  Remove the risotto from the heat while the sauce is still a little thin.  Once you add the cheese and once the risotto cools it will thicken significantly.  You can add water if you need more liquid.

Finally, add the cheese to the risotto and stir to incorporate.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

After you add the cheese, do a final taste test to see if the risotto needs any additional salt.  I like to use low sodium or homemade chicken stock so that I can control the saltiness of the dish.  If you find yours is too salty, then add some water and cook the risotto down a few more minutes.

The last step for this butternut squash risotto is to top everything with the crispy pancetta, chopped sage, and remaining roasted squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

Buon Appetito!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

A cozy and hearty fall spin on a Italian classic, this roasted butternut squash risotto is a crowd pleaser!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed About 6 cups in total
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar packed
  • 4 oz cubed pancetta
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced About 1 ½ cups in total
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken stock Make sure the chicken stock is the best you can buy, or make it yourself
  • 8-10 oz parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch sage finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Toss the butternut squash with the avocado oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

  2. Cook the pancetta in a large dutch oven over low heat for 10 minutes or until crispy

  3. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the pancetta from the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel.

  4. Heat the chicken stock in a separate stock pot until it is just before the point of boiling

  5. Return the pan with the rendered pancetta drippings to medium heat and add the diced onions. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent

  6. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more. Finally, add the white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

  7. Add the arborio rice, a quarter of the butternut squash and 2-3 ladles of chicken stock to the pan and stir.  Cook for a few minutes over low heat until the liquid begins to disappear.

  8. Continue adding a few ladles of broth every 3-4 minutes and stirring as you add. You never want the rice to dry out.  

  9. Keep stirring and adding broth until the rice starts to become tender.  The whole process will take 30-40 minutes in total.

  10. After 30 minutes check the rice for tenderness and the sauce for saltiness. You can add water if you think the butternut squash risotto is getting too salty.

  11. Once the rice is cooked, remove the risotto from the heat while the sauce is still a little thin. Once you add the cheese and once the risotto cools it will thicken significantly. You can add water if you need more liquid.

  12. Finally, add the cheese to the risotto and stir to incorporate.  Do a final taste test for saltiness.

  13. Add the crispy pancetta, chopped sage, and remaining roasted squash to the risotto and serve

 



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