Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook chose Ina's Butternut Squash Risotto as our first recipe for the month of October. Thanks Rachel, what a great recipe to welcome fall! I was excited about this dish because I have just started making risottos and absolutely love butternut squash. This was delicious, creamy, comforting, and had a great texture combination with the risotto and the chunks of roasted squash. In case you can't tell, I loved this! Has Ina let us down yet? I don't think so. My kids weren't really into this dish although I would think most kids would like it. The saffron helps it become the color of "macaroni and cheese," so I think that threw my little ones off when they tasted it. My one year old loved it, my two year old was not a fan, and my three year old ate her portion but didn't ask for more and was pretty hesitant about this dish.
Peeling and chopping the butternut squash was a bit tedious, especially considering how it ends up breaking down in the risotto a bit, I think it would have been much easier to cut it down the middle, remove the seeds, season, and roast in shell for an hour or so. Then scoop out 'chunks' after roasting. It would have meant more time with the oven on, but less prep and less possibility of cutting one's self trying to peel the squash. I didn't, thank goodness, but almost did. I was thinking of poor Deb at Kahakai Kitchen and her mandolin incident, and really didn't want my kitchen to look like a crime scene. Deb, if you're reading this, I hope your finger is all better by now :)
I did have to buy saffron for this recipe, it was 14.99, just a little more expensive than the cardamom I bought for Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake, oh-well. I'm glad that now I have it on hand and can experiment with it in different recipes. I really didn't think it added that much flavor to this dish, just an accent, a hint of something, which is nice but really not needed in my opinion since the butternut squash is so flavorful.
Changes I made were to use vegetable stock instead of chicken, no shallots (hate the texture), and no pancetta of course. I also only used about 2 tablespoons of butter to coat the risotto before starting to add the liquids. Also I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt to season the squash before roasting, and used a glass dish instead of a roasting pan. I also added 1/2 teaspoon onion salt to maybe make up for the missing shallot flavor. It sounds like I changed up a lot but I don't feel like I really did.
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.