Published in Cook's Illustrated March 2007. Risotto's labor-intensive reputation is enough to turn many cooks away. But this Butternut Squash Risotto uses a method that eliminates the need for continuous stirring, which allows you to tend to other dishes. Infusing the broth with the squash's seeds and fibers helps to reinforce the earthy squash flavor. Cook's Illustrated found that a 2-pound squash consistently yields a cup or so more than the 3 1/2 cups in step 1; this can be added to the skillet along with the squash scrapings in step 2.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded (medium, about 2 pounds)
- 3⁄4 teaspoon table salt
- 3⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 4 ounces Baby Spinach
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 small onions, chopped very fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 1⁄2 cups dry white wine
- 1 1⁄2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
- 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted in small, dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add about 3 1/2 cups squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer squash to bowl and set aside.
- Return skillet to medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and any leftover diced squash. Cook, stirring frequently to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to large saucepan and add vegetable broth and water; cover saucepan and bring mixture to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain bare simmer.
- While broth mixture is simmering, add 1 teaspoon olive oil to now-empty skillet and swirl to coat. Add 4 ounces baby spinach and cook, covered, over medium heat, until leaves begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring constantly, until fully wilted, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter (or margarine) in now-empty skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add onions, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, strain hot broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan and discard solids in strainer; cover saucepan and set over low heat to keep broth hot.
- When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente. Turn off the heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter/margarine, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg; drain excess liquid from spinach and gently fold in spinach and remaining cooked squash. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto. Top individual servings of risotto with toasted pine nuts; serve immediately.