Butternut Squash Risotto, with Sage



by Cat, Nov 2007 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Basic Risotto2. Sides & Condiments Menu3. White Rice; 4Brown Rice;

Risotto is a creamy and slightly chewy, nearly orgasmic rice dish. Traditionally it is made with the Spanish Arborio rice, a short-grain rice. Today it is most commonly made with white Arborio (or other white short-grain rice), but it is far more healthful if you use brown Arborio. However, I advise pre-soaking it for at least 7 hours or overnight, to maximize its nutritional value and shorten the longer cooking time required for brown rice. See Pre-Soaking Brown Rice for details.

This particular recipe intrigued me because I like the flavor combination of sweet winter squash and sage. However, I’ve not yet tried this recipe.

Butternut Squash Risotto, with Sage

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1). The original serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a starter; I’ve cut this in half.

The original recipe also calls for bacon, cooked and crumbled. This is certainly a delicious addition, but I prefer not to have the smoky flavor in my risotto. Instead, you could use Pancetta, which is an Italian bacon, and generally not smoked.  Or you could eliminate it altogether for a vegetarian dish.

The parmesan is also optional; it’s strong flavor tends to hide the subtle flavors of the squash and sage, so if using, start with half the amount and taste before adding more.

The recipe is written for white Arborio rice; if you want to use brown Arborio, see instructions for Pre-Soaking Brown Rice to maximize nutritional value and shorten the otherwise lengthened cooking time required for brown rice.

Ingredients & Equipment:

Butternut squash

Butternut squash

(Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

  • 1 – 2 butternut squash
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock, or more as needed
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil plus more as needed
  • 3 large, fresh sage leaves
  • 2 slices bacon or pancetta, cut crosswise into ¼ strips (optional)
  • ¾ cup white arborio rice
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan (optional)
  • Unrefined sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Equipment:
  • 2 quart saucepan
  • cast iron skillet or saucier



  1. Prep: Peel squash; scoop out seeds. Then cut into ¼-inch dice, enough to make 1 cup.
  2. Mince shallots (enough to make 2 Tbsp). Wash sage leaves and pat dry
  3. Cut bacon/pancetta into strips and set aside
  4. Grate the parmesan.
  5. Combine chicken stock and wine in a saucepan and warm over medium heat; keep warm while cooking the rice.
  6. Cook: Meanwhile, heat skillet over medium heat and cook bacon (if using) until nicely browned, 5 – 7 minutes. Remove to plate lined with paper towels to drain. If not using bacon, heat olive oil in skillet. Add sage leaves to fat/oil in skillet and cook until they turn a dark green, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper-lined plate.
  7. Add more oil to skillet if necessary and cook minced shallots until soft, about 1 minute, stirring with wooden spoon. Add diced squash and rice; cook 1 pan, shaking pan occasionally to ensure the rice is fully coated with the oil (important for that creamy texture of risotto).
  8. Ladle in enough hot stock to just cover rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until broth is mostly absorbed. Add another ladle-full (about ¼ cup) of stock and continue cooking, stirring and adding more broth as each previous additions are absorbed, until the rice is tender with a “slightly toothsome quality,” about 25 minutes. As it cooks, adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently (just above a simmer; definitely not boiling). If more liquid is needed, add more broth, but not more wine.
  9. Select nicest looking sage leaves as garnish (one per serving). Crumble half the bacon with the remaining sage into the risotto. Stir in grated cheese and season to taste. Crumble remaining bacon as garnish with a reserved sage leaf.


  1. Fine Cooking recipe (finecooking.com/recipes/butternut-squash-risotto.aspx

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