Twice as Tasty

Winter Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Don’t forget about those crunchable squash seeds. They can be roasted, too, as a snack or a garnish for any of these dishes

By Julie Laing
Winter Squash and Mushroom Risotto. Photo by Julie Laing

Last fall, I shared one of my favorite risottos variations, using end-of-garden green vegetables or frozen ones, along with frozen shrimp. The vegetarian version here combines mushrooms and the last of the winter squash that are still keeping nicely in my unheated mudroom. It’s just as hearty as the shrimp-centered one and comes together just as quickly once you start cooking.

To speed up this meal, I use precooked squash cubes. My favorite method is to peel, deseed and cube the squash and then roast it at 450°F for about 35 minutes, until tender. You can also steam the cubes over boiling water for about 15 minutes or pop open a jar of pressure-canned pumpkin or winter squash.

You only need 2 cups of cubes for this recipe, far less than you typically get when you cut apart a full-size squash or pumpkin. That makes it easy to cook up the cubes in advance, set aside the 2 cups and then use the rest in another weeknight meal, like a quick pasta topping with shallots and garlic, a coconut milk-heavy Thai curry or the Roasted and Curried Squash Soup recipe I’ve shared in this column. Don’t forget about those crunchable squash seeds. They can be roasted too as a snack or a garnish for any of these dishes.

As another shortcut, I occasionally make a large pot of vegetable stock from peelings and trimmings and freeze it in 1-cup portions, ready to use. Store-bought stocks tend to be thicker and saltier than homemade ones, so you may want to cut such stock with water.

Winter Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups vegetable stock, warmed

2 cups cooked winter squash or pumpkin cubes

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

Grated Parmesan for serving

In a large heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onion and sauté for about two minutes. Stir in the garlic, sage and rosemary. Add the rice and stir for one minute, until coated. Add about 1 cup of warm stock and simmer uncovered, stirring every couple of minutes, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue the process, adding 1/2 to 1 cup of stock at a time.

After about 20 minutes, when the rice is almost done, stir in the squash, mushrooms and wine, if using. Cook for about two minutes, until the mushrooms soften and the wine is absorbed. Stir in the butter and goat cheese, if using, until they melt into the rice. Taste, adding salt, pepper and nutmeg as desired. Turn off the heat and let rest for one to two minutes before serving, sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.

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