Risotto is the ultimate comfort food. I always believed its creaminess must come from massive amounts of butter and parmesan cheese, but much of it comes from the rice itself, and so the dish is easily made vegan. Combine that with the fact that it’s one of the few traditionally gluten-free Italian foods and that it lends itself to fresh, local produce, and you have a meal that appeals to many dietary choices, while also tasting incredibly indulgent.
Don’t be afraid of risotto – it does require a lot of “hands on” time in the kitchen, but it’s really not hard at all. If you can stir, you can make risotto.
Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto:
4 Tablespoons of olive oil or 4 Tablespoons of EarthBalance Vegan Spread
1 medium yellow onion or 2 shallots (or you can use 1/2 onion and 1 shallot!)
2 – 4 cloves of garlic (use more if you’re using onion, less if you’re choosing shallot)
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 and 1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1 and 1/2 Tbsp fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, heat the oil or “butter” at medium heat. Saute the onion or shallot, garlic, and butternut squash for five minutes. While this is happening, make sure you are also warming the vegetable broth in a saucepan.
2. Add the arborio rice to the onions and butternut squash and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add the white wine, and cook, stirring, until absorbed.
4. Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time (this is about two ladles – which is how I like to do it). Once you add the broth, you’ll stir the risotto until it’s absorbed, then add, and repeat. Make sure you’re listening to some good music (and possibly drinking some of the remaining wine from that bottle). Keep an eye on the heat – if the liquid is being absorbed right away and the mixture is sticking at all, you may want to turn the heat down. If it seems like it’s taking forever, you might want it up a notch. I keep my heat between medium low and just under medium. Also, as the broth gets less, you may want to turn the heat down on its burner to just a simmer.
5. Once all of the liquid is absorbed, add the nutritional yeast, and fresh herbs. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve at once.
Serves 4 – 6 people (if you eat as much of it as I do, it’s only 4)
– This only will use a small portion of a butternut squash. Plan another use of butternut squash for later in the week.
– This goes very well with a salad of mixed greens, walnuts and dried cranberries with balsamic vinaigrette. It will be a harvest feast!
– Yes, you must use arborio rice. I buy it from the bulk section of my local grocery stores. If you can’t find it there, you may also want to check the Italian section.
– Have all ingredients prepped before you begin. Once you start cooking, you’re pretty much stuck at the stove.
– Heating the stock/broth isn’t optional – it’s essential!
– You really do need to stir the whole time. I really find it fun (it must be the music and wine), but you also might want an assistant to trade off with.