Roasted Honeynut Squash Risotto
This creamy, hearty squash risotto is perfect for fall! Roast honeynut or butternut squash with a sprinkle of cayenne and a drizzle of maple syrup. Then we’ll saute it with arborio rice to make squash risotto. Finish with a knob of butter and shredded cheese for buttery perfection!
Roasted squash risotto is one of the coziest things you’ll experience.
And hey, I get it; if you’ve never made risotto before, it can be a bit daunting. But stick around; I’m going to walk you through this step by step, so you end up with perfect risotto every single time.
My roasted squash risotto starts with roasting squash halves – no shocker there! I happen to find a few honeynut squashes at my local farmers market, and I kid you not; I jumped at the opportunity to make soup, risotto and am planning to store a bit more in the freezer for later. You can certainly use butternut squash in place of the honeynut if it’s not available in your area. Start by roasting the squash with a little olive oil, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and cayenne. When the squash is roasted, buttery, and tender, we’ll remove it from the oven and scoop out all that golden goodness.
Creamy, rich, and undoubtedly satisfying.
What is risotto?
Risotto is a dish that is commonly made in Northern Italy and is typically gluten-free. It’s short-grain rice cooked in broth that is added slowly as the rice releases starch to create a creamy, rice pudding-like texture. Common ingredients in risotto are grated cheese, butter, and onions.
Ingredients for Roasted Squash Risotto:
- Squash: You can use both honeynut squash and butternut squash for this recipe. If you use butternut squash the flavor changes slightly and it’s called a butternut squash risotto! Start by slicing the squash down the center and removing seeds and ‘guts’ as I call it. Then we’ll season the squash and roast it. By roasting them in the skin, we avoid peeling the squash entirely!
- Olive Oil: You’ll need olive oil to drizzle on the squash and well as to fry the sage and to saute the aromatics.
- Seasonings: We’ll use salt, pepper, cayenne, and a hint of saffron. I know saffron isn’t something that everyone keeps at home, so it’s an optional ingredient. But if you happen to have some in the pantry, it works wonders with this recipe.
- Maple Syrup: Just a drizzle to help promote the natural sweetness of the squash.
- Stock or Broth: You can use vegetable broth or chicken broth for this recipe. I suggest opting for low sodium stock so that you can control the sodium in the risotto! You can always season with more salt later, but you can pull any out.
- Fresh sage leaves: We’ll fry the sage in the olive oil and use it as the garnish. By frying it in the same oil as we’ll use to cook the aromatics, you’re just adding more layers of flavor to the dish.
- Shallots: shallots give this recipe plenty of flavor! You can also replace the shallots with minced yellow onions, however, I do feel the shallots give this risotto a better taste.
- Garlic: You can use as little or as much as you like. I like it at about 4 cloves for this recipe so that it doesn’t overpower all the other delicate flavors in this recipe.
- Arborio Rice: Arborio is a short grain rice with a high starch content. This is what makes it the perfect rice to use when you’re making risotto. Ideally, you want to use rice that has a higher starch content because that’s what gives risotto that ultra creamy texture it’s known for. Also, when it comes to risotto, you don’t rinse your rice – which if you’re Asian or Middle Eastern, you know it totally goes against everything we’ve ever been taught!
- Shredded Cheese: I use two kinds here. The first is shredded gruyere cheese and the second is pecorino romano. Both of these cheeses add a delicious, nutty flavor to the risotto. You can use parmesan cheese and fontina as substitutes if you happen to have those on hand already.
- Unsalted butter: I’m someone that often says to use salted butter over the unsalted variety. But with an abundance of salty ingredients, like chicken stock, seasoned squash, and two varieties of cheeses, it’s better to err on the side of caution here and use unsalted butter for this recipe.
How to make squash risotto
- Roast the squash. The first step is to roast the squash. We’ll cut the squash in half, remove the innards and drizzle it with oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and a hint of cayenne. Feel free to omit the cayenne if you aren’t a fan of heat. Roast the squash until it’s tender. You can test this by piercing a fork through the roasted butternut or honeynut squash to see if it goes through without any resistance. If it does, your squash is perfectly roasted. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool before you scoop out the squash.
- Heat the broth or stock. While the squash is roasting, pour the stock into a saucepan and heat it until it’s just about to boil. Then lower the heat and allow it to hang out and stay warm. Once the broth is hot, I add a pinch of saffron so that it blooms in the warm liquid.
- Fry the sage. Add the remaining olive oil to your risotto pot and allow it to heat through and the fresh sage leaves and let them sizzle in the warm oil for 30 seconds. Then, remove them to a paper towel lined plate to absorb the excess oil.
- Saute the aromatics. Add the onions and saute them until softened, this will take 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and give it 30 seconds so that it’s nice and fragrant. Stir in the dry arborio rice and saute for a couple minutes before added the scooped out squash.
- Make risotto! Now, add a cup of stock to the risotto and set a timer. A timer helps you keep an eye on how long it’s been without having to think about it. It also helps you pace the stock better if you’re unsure of when to add more. You want to let the rice simmer in the stock as you stir. If there’s a theme to make risotto, it’s ‘stirstirstir.’ You’ll know when to add more stock by how much resistance you’re feeling from the risotto. It if feels like a thick sauce, add a bit more stock. Once it looks like it’s coming together, we’ll add the cheese and allow it to melt. Then we’ll finish it off with a knob of good butter. I can’t tell you how big of a difference the butter make! Not only does it add a little more luster to the whole thing, the butter also makes the texture so much more rich and delicious.
Tips for making better risotto:
- Always prep everything ahead of time. The French call is mise en place, I call it trying to save yourself from a disaster later! It’s important to have everything prepped, measured, and ready to go so that you aren’t scrambling while you’re having to constantly stir the rice.
- Be patient and enjoy the task. The broth is going to take it’s own sweet time, better to accept that a risotto can’t be rushed and that the rice is the boss now. Just let it do it’s thing; it’ll reward you later!
- Put on some good music or listen to your favorite podcast. Pour yourself something to drink and grab a wooden spoon. Don’t move from the stove once you’ve added the rice!
FAQs about squash risotto recipe:
- Will butternut squash roast in the same amount of time as honeynut squash? It might! It just depends on the size of the squash. I used two small squashes that weighed about a pound each, and they roasted it about 30 minutes. With large sized squash, it might take you closer to 40-50 minutes.
- What kind of pan do you suggest using? You can make risotto in a dutch oven, a large skillet, or a saute pan. I find that when I make risotto in a dutch oven, I often need to play around with the heat setting and bounce between medium-low and medium heat to keep the broth from absorbing too rapidly.
- Will short grain brown rice work instead of arborio rice for this recipe? It might! This is something that would require additional recipe testing and without doing so, I’m uncertain. If you’ve successfully made risotto with short grain brown rice in the past, chances are it could work for this recipe too.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Easy Weeknight Instant Pot Risotto
- Mushroom Parmesan Shrimp Risotto
- Thai Butternut Squash Red Curry
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Stuffed Butternut Squash with Curried Couscous Salad
- 19 Thanksgiving Sides + Everything You Need to Host Thanksgiving
- 2 lbs. Honeynut squash (or sugar pumpkin/butternut squash)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- kosher salt AND black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- ⅛ teaspoon saffron (optional)
- 10-12 fresh sage leaves
- ½ cup shallots, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
- ½ cup EACH: shredded gruyere AND grated pecorino romano (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ROAST SQUASH: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds using a spoon. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Drizzle the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle with maple syrup. Roast the squash for 30-40 minutes or until fork-tender, start on the next step while the squash roasts. When squash is tender, allow it to rest until it’s cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh and reserve for later.
- STOCK: In a medium saucepan, heat together the stock and saffron (if using) over medium heat until just boiling, then lower the heat to low so that it just simmers. You want the stock to be warm when added to the rice.
- SAUTE: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add sage leaves in a single layer. Keep an eye on them until they crisp up, about 30 seconds. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate; save for later. Add the shallots to the pan and cook them with a big pinch of salt for 3-4 minutes then add the garlic and let cook 30 seconds before stirring in the arborio rice. Allow the rice to toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, then add the squash flesh and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- RISOTTO: Add 1 cup of stock and push the mixture around in the pan with a wooden spoon. Set a timer for 20 minutes as soon as you add the stock. When most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan, add another ½ cup of stock, stir and continue this process until the timer goes off. Test the rice to see if it needs to be cooked longer, you can let it go for another 5 minutes or until the arborio rice has cooked to your liking. You may not end up using all the stock; I needed 5 cups.
- FINISH: Stir in the gruyere and grated parmesan until combined then finish with the butter. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve topped with more shredded Parmesan and the fried sage.
- Cheese: Fontina works well as a substitute for gruyere cheese. Parmesan can also be used in place of the pecorino romano!
- Leftovers: If you anticipate leftovers, I suggest hanging on to any remaining stock (in the refrigerator.) I reheat a splash of stock in a skillet until simmering, then add the amount of risotto to reheat and allow it to simmer in the stock until the rice soaks it all up the liquid and warms through; works beautifully!