Orzo Risotto with Winter Squash

Butternut Suash Risotto-Style Orzo in a Roasted Acorn Squash

Yesterday, several of my guy friends came over and we cooked our annual Breakfast Club: Thanksgiving Edition meal. Although some members of the Breakfast Club crew have moved on to bigger cities, I’m so thankful for my friends and the relationships we cultivate. It was a bittersweet day, but nonetheless lighthearted and full of laughter, food and wine.

I’m also thankful that my friend Michael brought over a fully cooked turkey. I don’t have the stomach or the cooking equipment to bake a big, dead bird.

I insisted on cooking a filling vegetarian entrée after the carb crash that was my family’s Thanksgiving meal. After admiring photos of beautiful winter squash, I decided to roast acorn squash to use as an edible bowl for butternut squash risotto. I had never tasted winter squash before—both the acorn and butternut squash proved to be surprisingly sweet, and uh, squashy.

Enter tamari, which is a fun name for a variety of soy sauce with a smoother, more complex flavor. I tempered the sweetness of the risotto with several dashes of reduced sodium tamari, which was a fantastic idea from Whole Foods. Tamari has earned a front-row seat in my sauce collection and I intend to try it on all sorts of dishes. Tamari here, tamari there, tamari everywhere!

I’ve reduced Whole Foods’ recipe for risotto-style orzo to its simplest form so you can make it your own. Add seasonal vegetables, herbs, spices and your choice of cheese for a satisfying, easy vegetarian dish. Bonus: since you’re substituting orzo for traditional risotto’s arborio rice, you won’t have to stir your arm off to achieve the perfect creamy consistency!

Orzo Risotto with Winter Squash
Recipe type: Main
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (I’ve gotten away with a tablespoon or two less)
  • 1½ cups uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 3½ cups or 2 (14 ounce) cans of vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (feel free to use more or less cheese or a different type of cheese)
  • Vegetables! For the butternut squash risotto, I chopped up half a white onion, a shallot and a medium sized, roasted butternut squash.
  • Salt, pepper and spices to taste
  1. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven on the stove. Sautée vegetables like onions, mushrooms and garlic in the butter until tender.
  2. Add uncooked orzo and stir to coat (yes, you want to add the pasta before the liquid). Add vegetables that you would normally steam (like bell peppers and zucchini), and pour in both cans of broth. Bring to boil and cook until orzo is tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan and pre-cooked vegetables (like oven-roasted butternut squash or lightly steamed broccoli) and cover. Let rest 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and tamari (it’s great with sweet winter squash) or parsley or… Your options are unlimited with this recipe, so you tell me!
  • The orzo recipe serves 4 to 6 people. It is great as an entrée or side dish, and it makes for mean leftovers!


To roast butternut squash and/or acorn squash, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each squash in half from the stem through the base. Scoop out the seeds and the extra pulp, then brush the squash with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until the squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Do you have any combination of vegetables in mind for risotto? I’d love to hear your ideas!


  1. says

    My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures! I love risotto! I made a delicious butternut squash risotto recipe from Martha Stewart before. I really like this spin on this one though. It’s going on my ‘recipes to make list’. Mmm-mmm-mm!

  2. says

    this recipe sounds like the perfect vegetarian entrée like you said or fabulous side dish to bring to a potluck. i think i’ve made orzo once, but this dish with the squash looks better than anything i’ve tried

  3. says

    Oh dear, I teared up a little reading this post. I really miss you guys. I hope you had a lovely Friendsgiving, you’re lucky Michael didn’t bring a turducken. Those squash look absolutely amazing, I am really looking forward to trying out this recipe.

  4. Grace says

    Kathryne! I found this blog because Jordan hyperlinked you on hers! It’s gorgeous! And Breakfast Club never looked so yummy… or glamorous for that matter! I miss you all!!

  5. bonnie schmitt says

    Hi, Kate! I have been raving to all my friend about your blog! We are always trying to find yummy meatless dishes to tantilize our husbands taste buds! I also love how you use only whole grains, everything that I have tried has been delicious! Thankyou for all your lovely ideas! Do you think farro woulkd work for this recipe?

    • says

      Thank you very much for commenting, Bonnie! I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying my recipes. In this case, I’d be hesitant to substitute farro for the orzo because I’m not sure it would end up very risotto-like. I also think you might have to adjust the amount of liquid and the cooking time. I’ve found whole wheat orzo at Whole Foods, if you have live near one.

  6. dianne berest says

    And for the seriously nothing in the larder or fridge and dinner’s gotta be done in about 1/2 hour version: leftover brown rice, instead of orzo, boiled the squash instead of roasting it, added a bit of the boiling water to the rice along with the squash so the rice wouldn’t be dry. Vegetables: just onion and garlic. Spices: just regular soy sauce and, when all was ready and burner off, added chopped cilantro. Not bad for having nothing to cook for dinner. Thanks for the jumping off point and for saving dinner, Kate. Totally love this blog!!!

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