Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

I have a tendency to remember the big details in life but to forget the small ones. Recently I woke up from a night’s sleep to find that I had not only neglected to lock the front door, but I had also forgotten to close it. Which explained both the freezing living room and the little ledge of snow piled inside my entry way.

In a quest to become the kind of person that always remembers to water the houseplants, I’ve been relying on quite a few to-do lists lately. Last Monday, somewhere between “fill gas tank” and “figure out why phone is buzzing,” I’m happy to say that I added “make risotto recipe.”

It’s just a torn, crinkled scrap of paper stained with droplets of stock and splashes of olive oil. But for me, the recipe is pure gold (download recipe here). I jotted it down from Gourmet Magazine years ago and adapted it along the way – adding my own twists to vegetables and adjusting the ratio of stock and rice to suit my taste.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto photos by Courtney Tsitouris.

The idea is to add a small amount of warm broth to a pot of Arborio rice over medium heat. When the rice swells and becomes absorbed with liquid, add more broth and wait for it to soak in. Repeat this process until the natural starches in the rice are released and the mixture becomes miraculously creamy. Luscious, even.

The sweet, concentrated flavor in the recipe comes from roasting diced butternut squash in the oven for an hour or so and then adding it to the rice at the end. It’s a wonderfully tender, homey accent and virtually any vegetable can be substituted with the same result.

The step that creates body and texture, the one that makes the dish better than your neighbor’s version (but don’t tell them I said that) comes at the end. When the mixture is creamy but still a bit loose and the rice still has some chew to it, add a handful of good quality cheese plus two tablespoons of butter and stir until everything is melted together and glistening. The result is nothing short of heaven.

I adore its rich flavor and the way it glides across the plate but still maintains structure. I love the way it becomes impressive enough for a dinner party but is hearty and simple enough for a cold Monday night. I dare say, in its spell-casting wonder, this risotto might even help you sleep better.

Just remember to shut the front door before bed.

‘Meatless Mondays’ is a new series on UrbanCincy that explores one of the recommendations of CIncinnati’s Climate Protection Action Plan (aka Green Cincinnati Plan) – try to go meatless one day a week. UrbanCincy’s ‘Meatless Mondays’ series is written and photographed by Courtney Tsitouris who is a cook, designer and author of www.epi-ventures.com, a blog about dining in and dining out in Cincinnati.