Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
I fear that as I add recipes to Scott’s Food Rocks you’ll start thinking that I’ve gone a bit Risotto mad! This is my second recipe for risotto in a month and there are 3 more in the pipeline… With this approach I know there’s a risk that I am going to offend some Italian sensibilities along the way. So, let me apologise in advance for my potential lack of tradition with some of what’s to come. That being said I won’t apologise for trying something new. I guess it’s a case of “Sorry, Not Sorry”?
The reason I have so many risotto recipes on the go is three-fold. Firstly, it’s the experience of eating the end product. Who can blame me? I still stand in awe of the result that comes from simply stirring a pan of rice and stock for about 20 minutes. It’s creamy and rich and nutty and yet somehow light. You can make a meal that never fails to feel special. On a weeknight. In under half an hour. From scratch. (Admittedly not this one as the squash needs 45 mins in the oven – unless you plan ahead).
Secondly, I find the act of stirring the rice around the pan to be almost therapeutic. I still know a lot of people who are almost intimidated by the idea of making risotto yet I consider it to be maximum relaxation. Once the rice is in the pan you know you’ve got 18 minutes to yourself (and a spare hand in which to hold a chilled glass of wine).
Finally, and maybe most importantly, a “plain” risotto is the perfect base for pretty much any combination of flavours. You can keep it simple with just stock, butter and cheese or (and this is where I feel I may be controversial) add in whatever you like. Over the years I’ve made risotto with sparkling wine, white wine, rosé wine and red wine – each of them tasty in their own way. I’ve made them with chicken, pork, beef and fish – again each having its own charms. I’ve made them vegan – as the rice is often creamy enough to not need any additional cheese. I just can’t stop getting ideas for new flavour combinations and impatiently wanting to try them out.
Not that this is a totally new recipe, I admit. If you followed the previous version of my website then you may remember seeing a Butternut and Sage Risotto on there. Whilst the flavours here are similar the method and quantities have changed a little. Last time I didn’t oven-roast the squash in advance and used a lot more cheese. In tweaking the process and quantities here I’ve hopefully found a better balance of flavours.
As you can probably imagine the roasted squash brings with it a lovely sweet, earthy flavour. The squash on its own sounds great but I feel it needs a contrast to stop it drifting into dessert territory. Hence the addition of Sage, which brings an slightly spicy edge as well as a strong, astrigent flavour. It’s a classic flavour combination and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve also added in some goats cheese to bring something sharp-yet-creamy to the party. I feel it would be easy to add too much cheese here if you’re not careful – so do make sure you measure it.
Oh and do take some time to make the fried sage leaves if you can. The risotto will taste great without them, but they’re so much fun and taste amazing. They take a matter of seconds and you’d be a fool to skip that step! Seriously – they are something special.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
- 500 kg Butternut Squash whole
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 small Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic crushed
- 150 g Risotto Rice
- 100 ml White Wine or Vermouth
- 500 ml Vegetable Stock
- 50 g Goats Cheese
- 20 g Parmesan Cheese
- 10 Sage Leaves finely chopped
- Additional Sage Leaves optional, fried as a garnish
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds and surrounding membrane. Put on a baking sheet and drizzle with half the oil, before putting into the oven for about an hour minutes to roast. This saves you the hassle of peeling it (which is a chore!) and also adds to the depth of flavour.
- When the squash has roasted remove it from the oven and allow to cool, before scooping out the flesh in small chunks and putting to one side. As per the note below you will probably only need the flesh from half of the squash - just bear that in mind.
- Meanwhile, heat a good sized deep frying pan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and chopped onions. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes making sure it doesn't burn.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the rice. Stir it into the oily onion mixture until it's well coated and slightly clear on the ends of each grain. Then pour in the wine or vermouth and stir until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
- At this stage start adding the stock mixture one ladle at a time to the rice, continuing to stir well and only adding more stock when the liquid is almost gone. It’s important to note that you may not need all the stock or might need to add a bit more water towards the end.
- When the rice is tender, but still retaining a little bite stir in the butternut squash and goats cheese, allowing it to form a rich creamy sauce with the rice. Then stir through the chopped sage leaves and remove from the heat and set to one side to rest before serving.
- If you're making crispy sage leaves to garnish your dish do them whilst the risotto is resting as it's quick! Just heat a little more oil in a small frying pan until it's hot then drop in the leaves one or two at a time. They will spit, so be careful, but will be golden, crisp and delicious within a matter of seconds. Remove them to some kitchen paper.
- Serve the risotto into bowls, garnished with the parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and and a few crisp sage leaves.