Veggie-Packed Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta, Sage and Peas

Risotto is one of my all time favorite gluten free foods. It’s super satisfying, creamy, and easier to make than I had originally anticipated. When I first thought of making risotto I felt overwhelmed by all the nuances and the attention the dish would need. However, once you have the steps down, it can be surprisingly meditative; a good risotto takes a little more TLC than your standard rice and veggies dish, but in the end the payoff is always worth it. The trick to making a stress-free risotto is planning; having all of your ingredients on-hand and ready to go before you start cooking is essential.

So what do you absolutely need to do to make your risotto a success? Prepare your vegetables in advance, of course, but also make sure you have all your liquids in their proper proportions on-hand right next to the stovetop. For this recipe, you’ll need chicken stock (I reconstitute mine from bouillon, but packaged or fresh works just as well), a dry white wine (a perk of this recipe: use a little of the wine for cooking, and enjoy the rest while you cook!), and butter on hand for cooking.

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To retain some of the brightness of this dish, I opted to roast the vegetables and pancetta in the oven together, save for the peas, which I would typically stir into the risotto directly a few minutes before it was done. My dad, however, hates peas, so I cooked them separately and let people add them in as they wanted. This recipe would also support sauteed spinach if you wanted to substitute that for peas, and is flexible enough to accommodate other vegetables that you have on hand.

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta, Sage and Peas
Serves: 4
Time Required: Approx 55 minutes – 1 hour
Skill Level: 🔪🔪  (Medium)

3 tbsp butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1-2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic (I use the Dorot frozen garlic pods)
1 small-medium butternut squash
1/2 lb pancetta
3/4 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
5-6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of parmesan, more to taste or garnish
several small sage leaves

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Prepare your vegetables and pancetta. Cut butternut squash into roughly 1/2 inch cubes, mince garlic, mince shallot and cut pancetta into approximately 1 inch squares.
3) Toss butternut squash in olive oil and place onto a greased baking sheet. Salt and pepper, then cook for approx 20 minutes, until squash begins to soften.
4) Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan on the stove. Once melted and pan is warmed through, add shallots and cook for approximately three minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds, then add in rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly to coat rice in butter.
5) Once rice begins to go translucent on the edges, add in white wine and stir often until all wine is absorbed.
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6) While rice is cooking, check on your butternut squash. If it has begun to soften, remove from oven and add pancetta, turning squash over to ensure even browning on all sides. Return to oven and continue to cook for another ~20 minutes, until pancetta begins to crisp.
7) Once wine has absorbed into the rice, begin to add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed. Once the first 1/2 cup is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup and so on, until all stock is absorbed and the rice is firm, but not crispy or crunchy. Add parmesan cheese and stir thoroughly. If adding peas, add them now and stir in, heating until no longer frozen.
8) In the last five minutes prior to serving, remove squash from oven and sprinkle with sage leaves. Return to oven and allow sage to bake until it just begins to crisp, then remove from oven and test that the squash is soft and the pancetta is crispy. Add squash, pancetta and sage to risotto and stir.
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9) Serve and top with additional parmesan and sage, if desired!

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