A Labor of Food-Love

It took me a few days, but I was finally about to resolve the squash puree situation.  The situation being, of course, that I made this beautiful squash puree and hadn't had any time to use it!  Something always comes up and my good intentions to actually cook what I buy at the store goes to the wayside.  Tim has even suggested planning on only 4 dinners during the weekdays rather than 5, because the truth is one dinner menu is almost always scrapped in favor of leftovers, pizza, or Thai take-out. 

But last night, I was really motivated. We had everything we needed for dinner, and I had even remembered a few days prior to pull some steaks out of the deep freeze to thaw.  It was nothing short of a miracle that I even had some leftover white wine (when does that ever happen?) and had a glass to drink and some to spare for cooking. 

I've made risotto a handful of times, but the first time I ever had it was when our friend Luke came over for dinner.  Now Luke is one of Tim's oldest friends and was the best man at our wedding.  He got away with saying the word fornication during his speech at the reception--that should tell you something.  The time he came over to make it for us was when Tim and I lived at our first apartment together, long before our wedding.  It was a one bedroom in a historic multi-unit building and our overnight guests had to sleep on the couch or a blow-up mattress in the living room.  Luke brought his own secret ingredient--saffron--and took over our tiny kitchen. 

He used our only two pots, one for stock and the other for the rice.  He stirred so gingerly while he added the stock.  I couldn't possibly understand why he didn't dump all the liquid in, put a lid on it, and get out of that hot, cramped kitchen.  But Luke knew what I didn't--that risotto is like a puppy; it demands constant attention and if you give it what it needs, then it will repay you at the end by wowing you with a special trick.  The risotto's trick, of course, is that it's sauce becomes so rich and thick that it's hard to believe there is no heavy cream or flour in it. 

It did occur to me that someone might have come up with an easier way to make risotto that didn't require standing in the kitchen for half of my evening, so I did a quick Google search and found someone who did a comparison of stirred and unstirred risottoMark's findings were that it probably wasn't entirely necessary since you add cheese as a binder towards the end.  I contest that cheese is not necessary in all risotto (in my opinion).  And also sometimes I think when you labor for something that it makes it all the more enjoyable in the end

Thus, it was back to stirring.  

I felt a bit like Betty Draper there for a while, sipping my glass of wine, stirring my pot, and absentmindedly staring at the oven clock.  Of course, I was stirring what was going to be the star of an amazing homemade meal and Betty would likely have been stirring boiled hot dogs or a jar of spaghetti sauce. Sorry Betty, I've got you figured out. 

As we sat down to eat, I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  From roasting the squash to adding some torn sage at the very end, this butternut squash risotto was my masterpiece and a labor of food-love

Come to think of it, I suppose most of this blog is a labor of food-love.  Love being the important word here. 

Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted from Cooking After Five
serves 6-8 as a side dish or 4-6 as a main course

Traditionally risotto is made with arborio rice, but I've had no problem using jasmine rice.  It's possible that jasmine rice takes a little longer, as it seems to be larger grain, but I think the result is similar.  As an added bonus, we use jasmine rice as our everyday rice so I don't have to buy arborio rice just for this dish.  

6 cups chicken stock
1 cup butternut squash puree
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups arborio rice or jasmine rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt & pepper
2 tbsp cold butter
3-4 sage leaves torn into small pieces (about 1 tbsp)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stock pot, bring the chicken stock and butternut squash puree to a boil.  Stir until well combined and reduce to a simmer. 

In a heavy bottomed dutch oven or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add rice and stir, cooking an additional 2 minutes.  Pour in wine and allow wine to simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.  Then begin to add 1 or 2 ladles of the stock mixture to the rice, stirring continuously, until the stock is reduced. Add 1 or 2 more ladles and repeat the process for the next 20 to 25 minutes, or until the rice is done.

Rice should be cooked through but slightly firm and the sauce will be thick and creamy.  The amount of stock used will vary.  I used about 5 cups of the stock mixture. 

Season with salt & pepper and remove from heat.  Add the cold butter and torn sage, stir, and then cover.  After 2 minutes, remove lid, and stir in the cheese.   Serve hot. 

The photo I took above was after the risotto had cooled down a bit, so it was not as creamy in appearance.  It will begin to come together more as it cools, which does make it less messy as a side dish on your plate. 

Store extras in airtight containers and refrigerate.  To reheat, add a few teaspoons of water or stock and then microwave on high for a minute or two.  Stir and eat!


  1. Jen, this looks delicious -- two of my favorite things (squash and risotto) combined. I only plan 4 meals a week myself, because we usually end up with lots of leftovers and a combination of eating out and take-out during the weekend.

  2. Way to go with making your own risotto, Jen! The first time I tasted risotto was going to a restaurant with my parents - one of those taste moments that ranks right up there with the first time I tasted foie gras.

    But when you come down to it, risotto isn't that hard. Especially if you practice it a few times - you know, the way you want the stock to absorb into the rice, etc. (I agree that cheese added at the end is not a substitution for the creaminess that can be achieved by properly preparing a risotto in its own right.)

    My biggest problem with cooking risotto at home is that someone invariably calls me when I'm in the middle of it. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles. Or if I'm itching for a phone call, I just try making risotto and wait to see who calls :)

  3. This looks awesome -- never thought to puree b.nut squash and add it to risotto.

  4. It hadn't even dawned on me that butternut squash risotto season is fast approaching! Suddenly I'm feeling very inspired...

  5. Looks and sounds delicious:)! I've yet to attempt risotto...maybe I will now!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!