While procrastinating on Facebook the other day, a “memory” post popped up on my News Feed from 3 years ago. In the post I was describing our dinner for the evening; Butternut Squash Risotto served with a Spinach Apple Walnut Salad. The comment thread had several people requesting the recipe. Present day me cringed at the use of copious amounts of oil, chicken stock, cheese, and the suggested addition of shredded chicken to make it “a complete meal.” Talk about a fat, cholesterol, and sodium overload!
Isn’t it funny when you look back at your health journey and see how much you’ve grown?
Risotto, if you are unfamiliar, is an Italian dish of arborio rice that is slowly simmered in stock one ladle-full at a time until it absorbs the liquid and becomes a creamy, dreamy treat. This dish holds a special place in my heart because it is the first real meal I learned to cook back when Husband and I were just two crazy 18 year old kids in love. I knew that if I was going to become a wife one day that I would have to learn to cook (because after all, the way to man’s heart is through his stomach). Determined to learn, I spent all my free time watching the Food Network, specifically 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray.
One day she made Cheesy Risi e Bisi (aka risotto with peas) and I thought, “I can totally do this!” To my surprise, I COULD totally do it and the dish turned out awesome. I will never forget the look on Husband’s face when he came over to hang out and instead I had a hot dinner on the table complete with a green salad with bottled Ranch dressing, and a Diet Coke, because that was balance to 18 year old me.
That first successful meal is what gave me the confidence to really learn to cook. So when the Facebook memory post about Butternut Squash Risotto popped up, I knew I had to add it to the next week’s meal plan, but this time make it whole food, plant based, oil-free friendly.
This meal is a little more hands on than most of my recipes. However, it is WELL worth the extra stirring and it is still done in under 30 minutes. This is a fantastic meal to make for a dinner party or a romantic dinner after the kids are in bed.
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 cups arborio rice
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 3 lb butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and diced to 1” cubes (you can totally cheat and get the pre-diced bags in the produce section if you’d like)
- Salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400
- Place diced butternut squash on a parchment paper lined baking tray, laying them out evenly. You may need 2 trays. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning.
- Bake the butternut squash for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.
- While the squash is baking, add the vegetable stock to a pot on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
- Heat a large non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Sauté the onions in a splash of vegetable stock for 3-5 minutes until translucent.
- Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the arborio rice to the pan and sauté for 1 minute until the rice is slightly translucent.
- Begin adding the vegetable stock to the rice pan one ladle-full at a time. Stir the rice constantly to bring the starches out. I read stirring in a figure-8 pattern results in the creamiest risotto.
- When most of the vegetable stock is absorbed, add another ladle-full to the rice and continue to stir.
- Continue this process for 15-18 minutes until all of the stock has been used, reserving 1 cup. The risotto should be al-dente.
- When the butternut squash is fork tender, add it to the blender with 1/2 cup of the reserved stock. Process until smooth.
- Add the squash puree to the fully cooked risotto, stirring well.
- Add the last reserved 1/2 cup of stock to the risotto off the heat. Stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
- Check the risotto for salt and pepper and season to taste.
- Serve immediately with some hulled pumpkin seeds on top (totally forgot to do this!) and a green salad. Serves about 4. Store any leftovers in an airtight containers in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Spinach Apple Walnut Salad
- 1 large package of spinach
- 2 green apples, sliced or diced (whatever you prefer)
- 1/2 cup of walnuts
- 1/2 cup of maple syrup
- 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Whisk together the maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and salt (it will be a very thin dressing!). Set aside.
- Serve each salad with a 1/4 of the spinach, apples, and walnuts. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. Store any leftover dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.