Butternut Squash Risotto in a Hurry

This was my snack the other day.   These lovely sungold cherry tomatoes were like a burst of sweet sunshine and eating them almost made me forget just what a freakin’ mess it is out in the fields.

We have three greenhouses of different sizes.  They’ve been named Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.  Baby Bear currently houses an assortment of ‘leftovers’ since it’s the only greenhouse that wasn’t flooded.

These cherry tomatoes came from one of those leftovers.  There’s also a selection of hotter-than-hot chile peppers, a flat of rosemary, several assorted variety tomato and pepper plants all in production, and a dozen or so flats of basil seedlings awaiting transplanting.  This is our private reserve…

And I’m not going to share any of those tomatoes so don’t even ask.  But they were delicious, and the half dozen or so that I eat every day remind me of summer pre-flood.

I have realized lately that winter on the farm isn’t going to be normal.  Stop snickering — I know, we are FAR FROM NORMAL around here, but you get my point.  We just won’t have a full larder from which to choose winter produce.  We meaning me.

And that puts this FarmGirl who cooks a little on edge.

I cook what inspires me.  I see something growing or we’re washing up something for market or CSA and I get an idea in my head.  There is no plan (most of the time), and oftentimes, the recipes I create are never made again.  I just always come up with something new based on what’s on hand.   This year there won’t be much on hand.  I’ll have to shop at the grocery stores for produce and that makes me sad.  I get an icky look on my face when I think about it.

If I relied upon our 55-acre ‘garden’ for inspiration this fall, I’d be making a lot of chocolate pudding.

Thomas gave the risotto a double-thumbs up.  Because he’s such a pain in the ass regarding garnish, even if they’re essential flavor garnishes, I had to leave the sage and walnuts off his plate.  He still ate an adult-sized portion and asked for seconds.  That MAY be because his grandpa was enjoying  a big bowl of it, all the while telling The Boy that this is the kind of food that grows muscles!  I’ll take it.

Also, I prefer my risotto a little creamier and a bit runny.  Photography, especially with a 7 year old assistant, can take  longer than anticipated and rice soaks up the broth quickly.   Add extra broth (always taste for seasoning) if you have to wait too long before serving.

Quick-Yet-Decadent Butternut Squash Risotto

3/4 cup each celery, onion and carrot, all diced 1/4″
1 1/2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups arborio or medium grain white rice
3 1/2 – 4 cups  stock or water, hot
1/4 cup mascarpone (does it sound less caloric if I write 4T?  go for it…)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
small sprig fresh sage, dry toasted or a sprinkling of dried sage
toasted walnut oil (optional)
olive oil, salt and pepper

Heat large saucepan over medium  heat and add olive oil, about 2T.  Let heat about 1 minute, then add celery, onion and carrot.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then stir in squash cubes.  Stir a bit and allow to cook another 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and hot stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Let cook at  a simmer for about 15 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so.  Taste after 15 minutes.  The rice should be creamy and cooked through but not mushy.  There should still be liquid left in pan.  If not, stir in another 1/2 cup stock.

Add the mascarpone and ‘whip’ gently. 

Stir in the parmesan.  Divide risotto into serving bowls and top with toasted walnuts and crumbled sage.  Drizzle with a bit of walnut oil for extra flavor (you originally bought this so you could make my kohlrabi-apple salad right?) and if you really want to gild the lily, add a small bit of mascarpone to the top of each serving. 

Leftovers can be reheated with a bit of water or stock.  XVOlive Oil and unsalted butter may be substituted for the walnut oil and mascarpone.  The result will be a tad different but still delicious.  I prefer parmesan to my usual pecorino romano in this case.  Parmesan has a nuttiness that perfectly complements the squash.

Left, medium-grain rice; top right, brown basmati rice; bottom right, white jasmine rice

FYI: Arborio rice is a short-grain rice that is typically used for risotto.  I couldn’t bear the thought of spending $7.49 for one pound of arborio so I maneuvered myself down the aisle and discovered a 5-pound bag of Goya medium grain rice for $6.49.  The two were virtually the same in size and shape.  Guess which one I chose?

4 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Risotto in a Hurry

    1. When you want things to cook quickly, you learn a few tricks, such as dicing small. Always helps when you have a small, hungry child begging at your feet. LOL

    1. Hi Susan!

      You can make risotto ahead of time, but only cook it about halfway and use less stock. You’ll want the rice to be VERY al dente. Once you get to your location, reheat the risotto with the remaining stock (bring a little extra to loosen it up a bit if necessary) and add the optional garnishes.

      If you prefer to make it all in advance, cook and chill the risotto and make risotto cakes for the party! Form the cakes, then dip in flour, egg and seasoned breadcrumbs. Fry or bake them until golden and heated through.

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