People always ask, do we ever fight in the kitchen? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that we have been together for fifteen years so any disagreements we have quickly disappear. It is difficult to hold a grudge against your husband for dropping a plate of pancakes on the floor, and ridiculous to be arguing about why the shot works better with the blue napkin next to the sliced apples instead of the green napkin. As silly as it may be, conversations like this happen, but even when it’s more serious we always work it out. We also have a great time in the kitchen, especially when things turn out as successfully as they did today with this new recipe. This creamy roasted butternut squash risotto is pure autumn bliss with not a thing to argue about.
Risotto is the ultimate comfort food. We are reveling in these cooler temperatures that have finally graced southern California and celebrating our arid version of Fall with this ultra-satisfying Italian rice dish. Here, arborio rice is sautéed with garlic, chopped shallots, and a splash of white wine. We roast the butternut squash in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil until tender and sizzling, before stirring it into the risotto with savory vegetable broth and a pinch of ground turmeric. This tender rice is then finished with freshly-grated parmesan cheese, a touch of butter, and Icelandic Provisions plain skyr to make this one the creamiest risottos we have ever tasted.
We had never heard of skyr (pronounced “skee-er”) before, but after visiting their website, and learning more about this protein-packed, gluten-free, cultured dairy product, we couldn’t wait to come up with recipe ideas. We learned that skyr is a big part of the country’s national identity and culture—in fact, skyr is to Iceland as champagne is to France. It takes four cups of milk to make one cup of skyr so it’s densely concentrated, thick, and creamy. This skyr is unique since it’s made with heirloom skyr cultures, which is where its distinct taste and smooth texture comes from, similar to how a cheddar cheese is different than a brie. They offer a variety of flavors influenced by the Nordic region, using traditional northern fruits like Cloudberries (similar to a raspberry, but tastes like a baked apple), Lingonberries (found in all the Nordic countries), and Bilberries (Icelanders call this a “super berry”). We used the plain flavor, the traditional Icelandic skyr, to make this risotto extra creamy. Topped with crispy sage leaves and toasted pepitas, this is pure comfort in a bowl.
Risotto may seem complex, but this recipe has less than 30 minutes of active cooking time. Traditional risotto is stirred the entire time, which is richly rewarded with an irresistibly creamy al dente texture. And the crispy sage garnish adds a delicate earthy flavor and takes less than a minute to prepare! If you haven’t made risotto before, this is perfect place to start, and while we can’t guarantee it will settle your arguments, this roasted butternut squash risotto will certainly soothe your soul.
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
1 pound (455g) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (60ml) olive oil, divided
6 cups (1.4l) vegetable broth
7 ounces (200g) shallots, chopped (about 6 medium shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
1 1/2 cups (285g) arborio rice
1/2 cup (120ml) white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 ounces (57g) grated parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60ml) plain skyr (see note)
3 – 4 sage leaves per serving
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 425ºF. Place the cubed squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the top. Toss to coat, then roast in the oven until very soft and tender, about 25 minutes.
Pour the vegetable broth into a covered 2-quart saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and keep covered.
Meanwhile, in a 4-quart saucepan, pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and place over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and sauté until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the outside of the rice becomes clear with a white dot in the middle. Add the wine, and stir until it is absorbed. Add the roasted squash along with the turmeric, then add one ladle of hot broth. Stirring constantly, cook until the broth is absorbed, then add another ladle. Continue stirring and adding broth as each ladleful gets absorbed, until the rice is creamy and tender, about 20 minutes total. You may have extra broth left over at the end. Remove from heat, add the parmesan, butter, and skyr, and stir until smooth and creamy. Taste for salt and adjust as needed—our broth contains salt so we did not need to add more, but each broth is different. Let rest for 10 minutes.
While the risotto is resting, make your crispy sage leaves. Place a skillet over medium heat, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the sage leaves and cook until bright green and crispy—not brown—about 30 to 60 seconds.
Give the risotto a stir, then serve hot in bowls, topped with crispy sage leaves and toasted pepitas if desired. Enjoy!
— Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product that is thicker, creamier, and higher in protein than yogurt. Find a local retailer here.
— The squash can be roasted ahead of time, if desired. After roasting, it can be cooled, then kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a day. Bring back to room temperature before adding to the risotto.