Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

Contributor: Andrea de la Chapelle
Photographer: Madison Cline
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Risotto is a classic and hearty Italian dish that dates back all the way to the Middle Ages. Normally, when we think Italian, rice is not the first food that comes to mind. However, this creamy and savory meal or appetizer is just as Italian as a plate of pasta. Italy has the perfect climate for growing short grain rice, which is the star of a risotto.

Arborio is a short grain rice that is used specially for risotto. This variety of rice is very starchy and can absorb massive amounts of moisture. When Arborio rice is cooked with broth, it becomes very thick and creamy without turning to a mushy mess.

When one associates an ingredient with the term “starchy,” it is often thought to be unhealthy. However, Arborio rice is a nutritious and delicious addition to your diet. Not only is it a great source of carbohydrates, it is also higher in protein than other types of rice. A serving contains up to 9 grams of protein. Also, Arborio rice has many digestive health benefits. This type of rice is helpful in maintaining proper digestive function and assisting the digestive processes that leads to the absorption of vital nutrients.

Preparing this delicious dish is quite simple. The basic components of a classic risotto are: rice, a stock or broth, wine, butter, onion, and parmesan cheese. From there, the possibilities are endless. Add your favorite spices, vegetables, meat, poultry or seafood. As fall draws closer, we suggest taking advantage of the harvest season and pairing the tastes of sweet and nutty butternut squash with savory sage along with cooking the Arborio rice with vegetable stock, a dry white wine, butter, onion, and a finishing touch of parmesan cheese.

Though Arborio rice is quite nutritious, it is slightly high on the glycemic index. Arborio rice has a glycemic index rating of 69 (a low rating is considered under 55). For those with conditions such as diabetes, it may be wise to seek out a substitution. Quinoa is a great substitution as it has a low glycemic index level (52) and is high in nutritional value. However, to achieve the creamy consistency of a classic risotto, you will need to add a small amount of cream to your recipe. Another alternative to Arborio rice is pearl barley. Not only does it have similar starch levels (lending to a similar creamy texture), it has a very low glycemic index (25).

This Italian meal (even with the suggested substitutions) is a simple, quick, and versatile meal that can be tweaked to treat your taste buds at the dinner table. Take advantage of the upcoming harvest of fresh and local fall produce to make a unique twist on a classic dish.

 
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Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto:

  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 20-30 Sage Leaves (Depending on Size)
  • 4-6 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (I personally use Chardonnay)
  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (1/2 Cup for the Risotto and 1/2 Cup for Garnish)
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Preparation:

  1. First peel and then dice the squash
  2. Place the squash into a large pot and cook on low heat
  3. Add around 5-10 whole leaves of sage, 1 cup of the vegetable stock and a pinch of salt and pepper | Cook for about 5-10 Minutes. You want the squash to be tender but not mushy.
  4. While the squash is cooking, finely chop between 5-10 leaves of sage and dice the onion
  5. In a separate pot heat the remaining vegetable stock. Allow this to simmer on low heat until ready
  6. In a saucepan, heat three tbs of butter | add the finely chopped sage and the onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the rice to the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir often | You want the rice to turn opaque
  8. Raise the heat to medium and pour in the white wine
  9. Once the white wine has been absorbed by the rice, lower the heat back down to low and begin adding the warm vegetable stock one cup at a time. Following the same directions of waiting until the stock has been absorbed by the rice before adding the next cup. Stir well and often.
  10. In a small saucepan, sauté the remaining sage leaves in butter until crisp. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  11. Stir in the cooked squash, the rest of the butter and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  12. Once done, serve it in a large bowl and garnish with the extra cheese and the sautéed sage leaves.