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Love the creamy, dreamy results of risotto but tend to only order it off of restaurant menus due to its seemingly tedious process? We've been there. But we changed our tune once we learned a trick for no-stir risotto—and we haven't looked back since.
Today, Ina Garten inspired us to try it again the traditional way, thanks to a totally tempting-looking snapshot she shared on Instagram:
In addition to being posted on her website, this recipe is featured in the Weekend Lunch episode of Barefoot Contessa and in Garten's 2002 cookbook Barefoot Contessa Family Style (buy it: $22.70, Target). With such a wide reach and 299 reviews with an average 5-star rating, we knew we had to learn more about Ina Garten's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash recipe.
"The saffron is spicy, and the butternut squash is really sweet," Garten says on the episode that's available now to stream on Discovery.
"When you're peeling butternut squash, you want to use a nice, sharp peeler—not the type of vegetable peeler that you find in the hardware store," she says, likely referring to those wobbly, stick-straight models that tackle the task far slower than her favorite Y-shaped Kuhn Rikon peeler (buy it: $5, Williams Sonoma).
Use that peeler to remove the skin from all of the 2-pound squash, then use a chef's knife to cut the squash in half across the neck, trim off the ends, then slice each piece in half vertically. Use a spoon to remove the seeds from the bottom half.
"You can boil this, but instead, I'm going to roast it. That really brings out the sweetness and sort of caramelizes it," Garten says, as she continues to chop the squash into about ¾-inch cubes.
Getty Images / Patrick McMullan
Transfer the squash to a sheet pan, then toss with olive oil (Garten adores Olio Santo Olive Oil; buy it: $39.95 for 750 milliliters, Williams Sonoma), salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes "until it's really tender and sweet," Garten advises.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, add chicken stock. "I really like to use homemade, but if you don't have it, use a can," she says.
As that warms up over low heat to a simmer, dice up pancetta (or bacon). In a large Dutch oven (Garten is using a lime green Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Round Dutch Oven; buy it: $319, Wayfair, on the episode), melt butter to sauté the pancetta and a couple diced shallots. Allow this to cook for 10 minutes over medium-low, then add arborio rice—an Italian short-grain variety that's traditional in risotto recipes. Stir the rice to coat it in butter, and then it's time to get spirited with ½ cup of dry white wine. (That leaves 21 ounces, or about four full glasses, left in the bottle...we'll let you decide what to do with that! 😉)
"The key to good risotto is you want to add chicken stock two ladles at a time," Garten explains, as she scoops a couple ladles of stock from the saucepan to the pot with the rice. "If you add it too fast, the risotto cooks on the outside and not on the inside. If you add it too slowly, the risotto gets mushy."
Add a generous pinch of saffron threads (buy it: $18.95 for 1 gram, Williams Sonoma) now, along with more salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Every 5 to 10 minutes once the mixture seems a hint dry, add two more ladles of stock. Stir and simmer, and continue until the rice is cooked through but a touch al dente. This will take about 30 minutes.
Once the risotto is completely cooked, take the pot off the heat and stir in the roasted butternut squash.
"The last thing I need is one cup of grated Parmesan. This is the most delicious lunch, all in one pot," Garten says.
Not just delicious, but "absolutely delicious, creamy, perfectly cooked risotto," says one fan who tried the recipe after seeing it on the Food Network website. "The butternut squash gave the dish an added sweet, nutty-like healthy flavor."
Another adds that it's "just as delicious the next day, too," while another says this "has become part of a fall tradition in our home. Last time I added some rosemary to the roasted butternut squash and it came out great. If you love butternut squash, this recipe is definitely for you!"
We sure do, and can't wait to make this Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash recipe as a meatless main or in a smaller serving size as a side dish alongside roast chicken, turkey or salmon. Perhaps just before a slice of Ina's ultra-easy French apple tart...is it dinnertime yet?!