If you read this blog or know me at all, you know that I love, love, love risotto. It’s such a rustic, yet delicious dish that welcomes with open arms any rejects in your fridge. Scallions, carrots, and thyme- why not? Asparagus and mushrooms? Don’t mind if I do. So when I had half a roasted butternut squash in my fridge, alongside some gorgeous fresh sage leaves, I got to work!
If you haven’t made risotto before, don’t get worked up- it’s not nearly as hard as it’s made out to be. Just be sure to stir from time to time, and if the rice is getting dry, then add more liquid! It’s as easy as that. The other trick to great risotto is to use great ingredients that pack a lot of flavor. That’s why you’ll see every addition to this dish is designed to pack a great punch in the taste department- from the cheese, to the wine, to the squash, to the garlic, to the…. wait, I’m getting hungry here!
Before I get to the recipe, I want to address another mythological kitchen monster: brown butter. Brown butter is basically just butter that’s been cooked to a gorgeous brown color with a nutty, rich taste- and it really isn’t all that hard to make. The key is consistent, moderate heat, and a keen eye to watch out for burning. I used brown butter as both the base for my risotto, as well as to crisp up my sage leaves. I also used it as a little saucy garnish for the risotto itself- adding a delicious nutty flavor that really complemented the rest of the dish.
Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter
For the risotto:
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium shallot, diced finely
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- kosher salt
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3-4 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth if you want to make this vegetarian)
- 1 cup mashed butternut squash (see recipe that follows)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded parmesan (according to your taste!)
For the brown butter/crispy sage:
- 4-6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 tbsp butter
For the roasted butternut squash:
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes (you’ll only need half for this recipe, but can make whole and store rest for later use)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- kosher salt
1. Make your mashed roasted butternut squash: Pre-heat oven to 350. Toss squash cubes in the olive oil and salt, and arrange in a baking dish in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Once squash is tender and easily cut with a knife, remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash squash until it has somewhat of a starchy puree’d look to it:
2. Heat up your broth in a medium pot over medium-low heat. You want the broth to be at a warm temperature so that it doesn’t cool down the rice when you add it. Keep it warm throughout the cooking process.
3. In a large pan with deep sides over medium heat, add 2-3 tbsp of butter. To make brown butter, you want to keep the heat even and steady. Once the butter has fully melted, let it sit and allow the solids in the butter to start to turn brown- being careful not to let it burn. This may take about 5 minutes- but as long as you are watching the butter, it should turn out great. Swish the butter around with a spatula or wooden spoon from time to time to make sure it’s not burning. When you see that great brown color start to develop, add your shallots and garlic, and cook until they begin to soften and your kitchen really starts to smell amazing- about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add 1 cup arborio rice, and allow the rice to “toast” in the butter-shallot-garlic mixture. This allows the rice to get infused with the flavors of the mixture as well as absorb the liquid we’re going to add without getting soggy. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for about 2 minutes, stirring to keep from burning.
5. Add 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine to the rice, stirring often. The idea here is to hit the rice with a lot of flavor early on so it doesn’t taste bland later. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the broth by the 1/2 cup-ful (or ladle-ful), waiting to add the next 1/2 cup until the previous has been fully absorbed. You will need to stir the rice from time to time, but in the mean time, lets make that crispy sage.
6. Brown the butter in the same way as you did in step 3- this time with only a tbsp of butter in a small pan over medium heat. When the butter is nice and browned, add the whole sage leaves. You want them to both infuse the butter with flavor, but also get crispy, almost like sage chips. Yum! This can take about 10 minutes- check them every so often to make sure they aren’t burning, and flip if necessary.
7. When all the broth has been added, and rice is chewy, but not crunchy, when you take a taste, Add the squash puree and turn off the heat. Add a nice big handful of parmesan cheese, stir and see how deliciously creamy your risotto is getting. Spoon into bowls, and before serving, garnish with a nice crispy sage leaf or two, and some of the leftover brown butter. Pat yourself on the back (and give yourself a glass of that leftover white wine) for a job well done!