I was gifted a magnificent home grown butternut squash from my in-laws and after much deliberation on how best to do it justice, I settled on this comforting and creamy risotto which ticks all the boxes in this wintry weather. It’s worth the extra effort to oven roast half of the squash as it really does add that extra layer of flavour and texture to the dish.
This recipe feeds two hungry people.
Butternut squash risotto
1 butternut squash
4 tbsp light olive oil
600ml vegetable stock
50g unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, picked
140g risotto rice
100ml white wine
50g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Peel the squash and separate the bulk-like bottom half of the squash from the slender top. Chop the slender end into 2cm cubes, toss in half the oil, season lightly and roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on the outside for about 30 mins.
Cut the bulb in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Chop the flesh into 2cm pieces. Warm the vegetable stock in a small pan over a low heat. Drop in the squash and leave to gently poach.
While the squash is roasting, warm a medium-size frying pan over a gentle heat. Add the remaining olive oil and half the butter, followed by the onion. Cover and cook for 3 mins until the onion turns translucent. Stir in the celery, garlic, herbs and a grinds of pepper (no salt at this stage). Cover again and cook for a further 2 mins. Turn up the heat slightly and stir in the rice. Stir, uncovered, for about 5 mins – this helps to create the toasty aroma of the rice without burning the veg.
Crank up the heat, stir in the wine and let it bubble away to almost nothing. Reduce the heat and start adding the stock. Add one ladle at a time, stirring gently during each addition. The idea is to encourage the rice to absorb the liquid and soften, but also give up its starch to thicken the remaining broth. Don’t stir too aggressively or you’ll end up with a pan of mush. When the stock has been absorbed, it’s time to add the next ladleful and so on. It takes about 15 mins to reach the final ladle of stock. By this time the squash in the stock should have softened. Mash it up with the remaining stock and stir into the risotto.
Turn off the heat, dot the top of the risotto with remaining butter and most of the Parmesan, cover, leave to rest for 2 mins, then stir through and check the seasoning. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle the roasted squash and leftover Parmesan on top.