Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pancetta and Mushrooms

And so it begins. It’s the season where we’re all cold until Spring.

Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pancetta and Mushrooms

Whether it’s raining or snowing, windy or cloudy, or because the days are now so short, we all crave comfort and warmth at this time of year – deeply breathing in the hot steam rolling off of a morning coffee, pulling a scarf higher as you step outside or reaching for a warm blanket when tucking into that novel as the wind howls outside the window.

We used to enjoy risotto with some regularity before the girls arrived. And among the other changes that came along with their arrival, risotto fell off our our menu because I perceived it to require too much attention. But, now that the chill of autumn has arrived, it feels like the perfect time to revisit risotto.

It turns out that homemade risotto isn’t that time-consuming and doesn’t need that much active attention. It is slightly more attention than something baking away in the oven, but is still manageable.  Risotto can be ready in 30 minutes. It’s actually very simple: onions, garlic, rice, wine, broth and cheese and is infinitely adaptable. This recipe, adapted from my mushroom risotto recipe, takes advantage of Fall’s bounty of squash and uses pecorino romano, the sheep’s milk version of parmesan. We recently discovered that Katie doesn’t have an adverse reaction to sheep’s milk products and hoped that using it would mean she could enjoy this with us. Gauging by the repeated “more, more, more” coming from her after her first taste, I’d say it was a success.

Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pancetta and Mushrooms

(serves 4 as a light meal or 6 as a side dish)

  • 1/2 medium-sized butternut squash
  • 3 + 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped pancetta
  • 4-5 button mushrooms, cleaned, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 medium spanish onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups low sodium chicken broth, warm
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • a few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)

Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Lightly oil the cut sides of the squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil and place the pieces on to the prepared baking sheet with the largest cut side facing down. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the squash is tender and the edges have browned. Remove from oven to cool slightly before peeling and cutting into 1″ cubes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, warm the remaining oil. Add the pancetta to the pan and fry it until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and fry them, as well, until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Next, add the onions and garlic and continue to fry the mixture until the onions have softened and start to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the rice and wine and cook until the edges of the rice are no longer opaque and the wine is mostly absorbed. The mixture should not be dry or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth in 1/2 cup increments to the rice mixture stirring between additions and only adding more when the last addition is nearly entirely absorbed. After about 20 minutes (or 4 additions of broth), taste the risotto to test the texture of the rice, which should be soft but have a little firmness still left.

Add 2-3 cups of cubed butternut squash to the risotto. Sprinkle in the grated cheese, salt and pepper and gently stir to incorporate.  Serve immediately topped with fresh parsley.

Tips and Suggestions:

  • If you have a preference for it, feel free to substitute parmesan cheese for the pecorino.
  • Don’t have wine at the ready? Just leave it out and continue with the rest of the recipe.
  • Try substituting in peas for the butternut squash. The little hints of sweet in each bite makes risotto with pancetta, mushrooms and peas a favourite in our household.

I created this post for the Monthly Mingle at What’s For Lunch, Honey? hosted this month by Cookin’ Canuck.

This post has also been shared on TidyMom’s I’m Lovin’ It Fridays.


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