If you’re in the market for an elegant autumnal entrée, you simply must try my easy Butternut Squash Risotto. Made with a perfect balance of sweet, tender butternut squash, savory pancetta, crispy sage leaves, and creamy parmesan, this no stir risotto recipe is a restaurant-quality dish that takes just 15 minutes of active prep time.
I’m not joking about the “easy” part — this squash risotto is made in the oven and requires little-to-no stirring! But don’t take my word for it, check out this reader’s comment:
Featured comment: I made this last night and it is so good and I am so excited for all my leftovers!” – Alysse
Update: This post was originally published in October 2015. I made edits to the content below to include more information about making this recipe for risotto with butternut squash at home.
About this recipe for butternut squash risotto
This fall risotto is easily one of my favorite cozy weather main courses. It is earthy-sweet, a tad salty, a touch cheesy, impeccably rich, and completely creamy-dreamy. Prepare yourself: you just may have a “When Harry Met Sally” diner moment when you take your first bite — except you won’t be faking. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! 😉
While the garnish of crispy sage leaves is technically optional (there is sage in the actual risotto, after all) I highly recommend you take the extra 1 minute to make them. Like I said, it takes ONE minute to crisp them up, and they add SO much flavor and just the right amount of herbaceous crunch!
Why you’ll love this squash risotto
As if that weren’t enough to sell you, this recipe for butternut squash risotto is also:
- Made With Just 10 Ingredients. You’ll need basics, such as butter, garlic and shallots along with simple ingredients, such as arborio rice, squash and Italian bacon (pancetta) for this super simple risotto recipe.
- Quick & Easy. You literally only need 15 minutes of active time in the kitchen to make it, then the oven does all the rest!
- Budget-Friendly. If you love hosting but don’t have the funds to afford a dinner party, my easy risotto with squash is your solution. And since you’re doing all the cooking, it’s totally reasonable to ask your guests to bring the drinks!
What is baked risotto?
If you’re unfamiliar baked risotto, I fully understand if you feel hesitant. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oven risotto? Blasphemy!” As someone with a professional culinary background, I also didn’t think it was possible to create a creamy risotto without constantly stirring and slowly, steadily incorporating a warm stock.
Turns out, I was wrong! You’ll be happy to hear that baking risotto yields a result that is just as delicious as its needy stove-top counterpart.
Ingredients for butternut squash risotto
As I mentioned above, this stellar butternut squash risotto with sage requires just 10 simple ingredients:
- Pancetta – This is an Italian style of cured pork belly. Pro Tip: You can find it already cubed to perfection in the refrigerated deli meat section of Trader Joe’s.
- Substitution: In a pinch, you can swap in bacon.
- Butternut Squash – You can peel them with a vegetable peeler, but it does get sticky and it’ll take you a minute. You’re also welcome to use pre-cut squash from the refrigerated produce section or even defrosted frozen squash pieces to save some time. Note that you may still need to dice it smaller, though!
- Substitutions: Pretty much any orange-fleshed winter squash can be swapped in here. Read below for more details. You can also use sweet potatoes if you like!
- Sage Leaves – Use fresh sage leaves for the best flavor.
- Substitution: If you can’t find fresh, use about ⅓ as much dried sage, and save the fresh leaves to fry for your garnish. For reference, 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons.
- Unsalted Butter – Using unsalted butter gives you far more wiggle room, but in a pinch you can swap in salted.
- Substitution: If you do use salted butter, try to use salt-free stock or broth to make sure you don’t accidentally overdo it! You can also use your favorite vegan butter if you need to make this dairy-free.
- Shallots – Think of these like red onions’ daintier, milder-mannered sister.
- Substitution: You can also use yellow onions if needed! Sweet, red, and white onions will also kinda do the trick, but plain yellow onions are the closest.
- Garlic – Get fresh. Trust.
- Arborio Rice – This Italian short grain rice is generally the easiest to find of the traditional varieties.
- Substitutions: Any Italian short grain rice will also work, including Carnaroli or Calriso. Sushi rice is also an excellent substitute (and depending where you’re shopping, may also be cheaper 😀).
- Dry White Wine – Use whatever you’ve got on tap: sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay will all do the trick. Pro Tip: Keep a box of each red and white wine in the pantry for cooking and save the spendier stuff for celebrating.
- Reduced Sodium Chicken Stock – If you made some homemade deliciousness and stashed it away in the freezer, now is the time to dig it out. If not, store-bought is just peachy!
- Substitutions: If you want to amp up the protein, feel free to swap in chicken or turkey bone broth. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan option, use vegetable broth or stock!
- Grated Parmesan Cheese – Make sure you’re grating your own for maximum melt-ability and flavor.
- Substitutions: Feel free to swap in any hard, aged, salty cheese. Think: Asiago, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano. You’re also welcome to swap in your favorite plant-based parmesan substitute if you like.
- Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper – Okay, fine. You caught me. These are ingredients 11 & 12. But you had them, so they don’t really count mm-kay? 🤷♀️
I think this risotto with butternut squash is phenomenal as written, but I ALSO want you to feel empowered to make this (and really any) recipe work better for you and your family. Here are a few possible variations to consider:
- A Little Extra – Stir in an extra tablespoon of wine to the risotto at the end, with the butternut squash and cheese.
- Vegetarian – Omit the pancetta (or swap in some delicious mushrooms!), use veggie broth/stock and be sure to read the labels on your parmesan to ensure it is vegetarian.
- Dairy-Free – If lactose isn’t your friend, you can also make this as a dairy-free dish. Use plant-based butter and your favorite melty vegan parmesan cheese.
- Vegan – Follow Vegetarian & Dairy-Free instructions above.
- Swap out your squash. Baked pumpkin risotto or buttercup squash risotto will taste just as lovely. In fact, now that I think about it, you could also use acorn squash, kabocha, turban, hubbard, [insert your favorite orange-fleshed winter squash variety here]… You get the picture, right?
Serving Suggestions for risotto butternut squash
- This gorgeous Oven Baked Butternut Squash Risotto pairs best with a dry white wine, some crusty bread, a light side salad, and good company.
- Perfect for serving as a smaller-gathering Thanksgiving or Christmas main dish.
- If you want to keep things on theme, consider serving this chocolate tiramisu (for Italian vibes) or or pumpkin mousse (for more of a “PSL 4 Life” vibe) for dessert.
Storing risotto with butternut squash
While risotto is definitely at its finest when it is served fresh, you can store leftover risotto butternut squash in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you omit the pancetta from this baked butternut squash risotto (in other words, make it vegetarian), you can store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To reheat leftover risotto, you will need 1/4 cup of broth for every 1 cup of cooked risotto. Bring the broth to a boil in a pot on the stove. Add in the risotto and stir for a few minutes, or until the risotto is warm throughout. If the risotto is still too thick for your liking, add in more broth, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Fair warning: reheated risotto will not taste exactly the same as it did when it was served fresh! But, that doesn’t mean you can’t reheat it. If you don’t want to be bothered reheating risotto, using the cold risotto to make arancini (that’s Italian for “cheesy fried rice ball deliciousness”) is a fabulous idea!!
Cooked risotto (or any rice for the matter) can become hard when frozen and the texture of the risotto will become grainy and unpleasant. For that reason, I do not recommend freezing baked risotto.
Alright, friends! Please don’t risotto me and all my puns, but this meal was pretty mesmer-ricing, right? Until next time, arborio adieu!
More squash recipes!
If you have a surplus of fall squashes, try these yummy recipes using fresh squash next:
- Spaghetti Squash Salad
- Wild Rice Salad with Squash
- Mashed Butternut Squash Recipe
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Butternut Pasta
- Butternut Squash in Salad
- Spaghetti Squash Casserole
More risotto recipes!
How to make Butternut Squash Risotto in the oven👇
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 1 large skillet
- 1 Dutch Oven
- 4 ounces Thinly Sliced Pancetta – diced
- 1 (1 ½ - 2 pound) Butternut Squash – peeled, halved, seeded and medium dice
- 6 Large Sage Leaves – roughly diced
- 5 TBS Unsalted Butter - divided
- 2 Large Shallots – minced (about ½ Cup)
- 3 Large Cloves Garlic – minced
- 1 ½ Cups Arborio Rice
- 1 Cup Dry White Wine
- 4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock – WARM (heat in microwave or on stovetop)
- ½ -¾ Cup Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated (depending on taste)
- ¾ tsp Salt - or more to taste; DIVIDED
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Optional garnish Sage Leaves
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange oven rack to the bottom third position.
- Saute aromatics: Place a Dutch oven or large saucepan (with a tight fitting lid) over medium to medium-low heat. Add the butter to the pan and melt. Once the butter is melted, add the shallots and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 minutes or until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds – 1 minute.
- Then add the rice: Add the rice to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is lightly toasted and every grain is coated in butter, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Arborio starts to look creamy in texture. Stir in the warm stock. Then, increase the heat to medium-high and bring contents to a rapid simmer (this will take about 2-4 minutes).
- Oven bake: Cover pot, transfer to the oven and bake, stirring once halfway through, until the rice is tender and the liquid is almost absorbed, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pork: Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. (Do not wipe the pan. There should be about a scant tablespoon of fat drippings in the pan. If your pan is dry, add a splash or two of olive oil.)
- And cook the squash: Add the cubed squash to the same skillet. Season with ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until the squash is tender. Add the sage leaves to the pan. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the squash and sage to a medium size bowl. Dump the pancetta into the bowl as well. Set aside.
- Once risotto is done baking, add squash and pancetta: Transfer the risotto from the oven to the stove top. Turn the burner to low heat. Give everything a good stir. Then, add the butternut squash and pancetta mixture to the risotto. Followed by the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and ½ cup of the parmesan cheese. Gently stir to combine all the ingredients. Taste the squash risotto and adjust for seasoning.
- Optional garnish - crisp the sage leaves: Heat ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sage leaves and quickly fry, for about 3-5 seconds, or until crispy. Use a fork or slotted spoon to transfer the leaves from the pan to a paper towel lined plate to drain.. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Use as garnish for risotto.
- Serve: Transfer the risotto with butternut squash to a serving platter or individual bowls. Garnish with crispy sage leaves and more grated parmesan cheese if using. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- TIP: Read this recipe all the way through before cooking as there are two components - sautéing the ham and squash AND making the risotto.
- Sautéing squash: If your pancetta is lean, you may need to add oil to the pan to cook the butternut squash. Aim for about a tablespoon of either fat or oil.
- More flavor: Totally optional, however I like to add a tiny splash (about a tablespoon) of wine to the risotto at the end - along with the butter and cheese in step 7.
- Make-ahead: You can prepare the pancetta and squash mixture a day in advance. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before using.
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