Welcome to the new year! I’m settling in quite nicely to my fourth decade here on earth and genuinely can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for all of us. Good things to come! I’ve spent the last few days organizing my place while reflecting on the past year. In the process, I’ve gotten rid of some excess stuff and decided that my focus for 2016 will be on giving, rather than obtaining.
In hindsight, my twenties were all about growing into an adult and getting all of the adult things that come along with it. I graduated from college, got a job, got a dog, started my blog, hated and quit said job, and somehow managed to turn this blog into my career (best job ever!). I also traded in mismatched plates for a well-stocked kitchen, purchased a few pairs of boots, bought myself a grown-up car, and here I am at thirty, with more than enough.
So now, I’m purposefully shifting focus. I’ve even sworn off buying clothes for the entire year, just for daily reinforcement that I have plenty. Anyone want to join me?
I thought we’d kick off 2016 and transition into healthier eating with this comforting, but redeeming, butternut risotto recipe. Unlike most risottos, this one calls for brown short-grain rice instead of white, which yields a super creamy risotto full of whole grain goodness.
The only downside is that brown rice requires more cooking time than white, so I’ve switched from the traditional stovetop method to the oven. This way, you only have to stir the risotto for a few minutes at the end, rather than for fifty minutes straight. That’s a serious arm workout, by the way.
While the risotto bubbles away in its pot, we roast cubed butternut on the top rack until it’s tender and caramelized on the edges. Then, just stir the rice and butternut together with a reasonable amount of butter and Parmesan and top it off with crispy fried sage. (Check the notes for a dairy free/vegan option.) This risotto is heavenly, I tell you. Here’s to healthy, happy eating in 2016!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth, divided
- 1½ cups brown arborio/short-grain brown rice
- 1 small butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced into ½” cubes
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese* (about 2½ ounces)
- ½ cup dry white wine, optional
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 to 20 fresh sage leaves, chopped (to yield about ¼ cup chopped fresh sage)
- To prepare: Place your oven racks in the lower third and upper third positions (we're going to bake the risotto on the middle rack and roast the squash on the upper rack at the same time), then preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for the butternut squash. Reserve 1 cup broth from your container and set it aside for when the risotto is out of the oven.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-to-large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add 3 cups broth and 1 cup water, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the rice. Cover the pot and bake on the lower rack until rice is tender and cooked through, about 65 to 70 minutes. It will seem pretty dry when you take off the lid, but don't worry!
- Immediately after placing the pot of risotto in the oven, toss the cubed butternut with 2 tablespoons olive oil on your lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and some freshly ground black pepper and arrange the butternut in a single layer on the pan. Roast on the upper rack until the butternut is fork tender and the edges are deeply caramelized, tossing halfway. This took 55 to 60 minutes for me, but start checking for doneness around 40 minutes.
- While the risotto and butternut are in the oven, fry the sage: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the sage and toss to coat. Let the sage get darker green and crispy (but not brown) before transferring it to a plate covered with a paper towel. Sprinkle the fried sage lightly with salt and set it aside.
- Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid and pour in the remaining cup of broth, the Parmesan, wine and butter. Stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Stir in the salt, a generous amount of pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Stir in the roasted butternut. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed. Divide the risotto into bowls and top each with a sprinkle of fried sage.
Storage suggestions: This risotto keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Starchy rice accounts for most of this risotto's creaminess, so you can skip the dairy or replace it with the following. Replace the butter with vegan butter or a tablespoon or two of additional olive oil, to taste. Skip the Parmesan cheese. You might like to add some nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor.
*A note on Parmesan: I always get a few comments on recipes that include Parmesan (“It’s not vegetarian!”) but Whole Foods actually makes a great animal rennet-free Parmesan. There’s plenty of flavor in here without the Parmesan, if you’d rather leave it out.
If you must use white arborio rice: Bake it for 40 to 45 minutes, until tender to the bite, and proceed as directed.