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Autumn's Comfort Food: Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage

Everybody gobbled this up last night, including myself. I didn't have any arugula so it wasn't as pretty as I've made it before but no one seemed to mind. This is one of my favorite dishes from Rouxbe.com, the online cooking school where I was certified as a Professional Plant-Based Cook this last summer. I made this in the heat of summer so I didn't truly appreciate it until last night, now that the colder, darker, and rainier days have set in.

Risotto isn't completely hands-free like other dishes that you may bake or roast, but its great if you have people over for dinner, everyone can take turns stirring! If you have children who love to cook with you, give them the wooden spoon (and a lesson on safety around the hot stove). 

To make it easier, I do all the squash prep (both the puree and the roasting) on a previous day when I have more time. Then the day of, I only need to make the risotto itself. MUCH easier. Don't get too hung up on the amount of squash. I just buy a whole good sized squash and use half for the puree and half for the roasting. It'll be fine- don't worry. Taste as you go. 

I didn't alter the recipe below from Rouxbe's version, except that I didn't fry any sage leaves for garnish or make a sage brown butter (Earth Balance is a great vegan butter we use) which is in the original recipe in the picture below. I kept it a little lighter this time around, its already a comfy dish even without the added fat. If you are making a flourish of a meal, though, by all means melt some butter in a pan with fresh sage leaves and make a sage butter to pour over the top! Your guests will be spoiled and feel the love. 

Also, know that you can substitute baby spinach or even a stronger green like Kale or chard, or do without the arugula if you want- it won't be as pretty like I said, but don't let it stop you. And please, please...use fresh sage throughout. 

The Puree- do ahead, can be kept in freezer

  • 3/4 lb butternut squash
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 large sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter (regular or vegan)
  • 3/4 cup stock (approx.)
  • sea salt, to taste

First preheat your oven to 475°F (245°C).

To prepare the purée, first wash and peel the squash. Cut the squash into approx. 3/4" -inch cubes. Peel the garlic. 

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the squash, the whole garlic cloves and the sage leaves. Add the stock and season liberally with salt. Bring the squash to a gentle simmer. Loosely cover just the top of the squash with a piece of vented foil. Simmer gently until the squash is completely fork tender. 

While you are waiting for the squash to cook, jump to Step 2 to prepare the rest of the squash. 

Once the squash is tender, remove the sage leaves and discard. Transfer the squash mixture to a blender (you may have to do this in batches) and puree until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Make sure to hold the lid with a cloth to ensure the top does not explode from the heat of the mixture. 

Taste the puree for seasoning. Transfer to a small pot and keep warm.

Roasting the Squash- do ahead, can be kept in freezer after it cools

  • 1/2 lb butternut squash
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste

Cut the squash into 1/2" -inch cubes. Toss with the oil and season to taste with salt. 

Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. 

Once done, remove from the tray and set aside.

The Risotto- do the day-of only, serve warm from the pan

  • 2 1/2 cups stock
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup risotto rice (see note)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth (I used dry sake in a pinch once and it was perfectly fine)
  • 2 cups arugula
 Getting everything measured out and ready before you cook will give you better results. This a chef's secret called Mise En Place- everything in it's place...AKA get organized and you'll have less mistakes. 

Getting everything measured out and ready before you cook will give you better results. This a chef's secret called Mise En Place- everything in it's place...AKA get organized and you'll have less mistakes. 

To prepare your mise en place, place the liquid into a pot, season with the salt (if needed) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and keep hot.

In the meantime, finely dice the onions and garlic.

Place the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat over medium to medium-low heat. 

Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until soft and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Next, add 1/4 cup of the hot cooking liquid to soften the onions further. Let the cooking liquid completely evaporate before moving onto the next step.

Once the liquid has completely evaporated, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the rice all at once. Stir to coat the rice in the hot fat. Monitor the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Toast the rice for a few minutes until the perimeter of the grains are translucent. 

Once toasted, add the garlic and cook, stirring just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with the wine. Stir the rice until the wine evaporates.

Once the wine has evaporated, add one cup of the hot liquid. Stir often to coax the starches out of the rice. Once almost absorbed, add 1 to 2 cups of the warm butternut squash puree and continue to stir. Once the puree thickens and reduces, go back to adding the hot cooking liquid. Add the next cup of liquid only when the last cup has been absorbed by the rice. Stir frequently. During the cooking process, make sure to adjust the heat so the liquid is always gently boiling. 

Continue to add liquid and cook the risotto until it reaches the al dente stage (or until it is done to your liking). Start tasting the rice for doneness around the 15 minute mark. 

 MMMMM, almost ready. 

MMMMM, almost ready. 

Once the risotto has been cooked to your liking, taste it for seasoning. Stir in the butter (or olive oil). Fold in the roasted butternut squash and arugula. Cover and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes. 

Just before serving, add a bit of hot liquid to loosen the consistency, if necessary. Plate on warmed dishes. Top with parmesan shavings, fried sage leaves and a drizzle of warm sage brown butter. Serve immediately.

 Seen here with all the fixin's...and even a little parmesan, just omit it if you prefer the vegan version, it'll still be amazing, I promise. 

Seen here with all the fixin's...and even a little parmesan, just omit it if you prefer the vegan version, it'll still be amazing, I promise.