How to Make Perfect Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms


A Creamy Mushroom & Squash Risotto for Cozy Nights In With Friends

Easy enough for a weeknight, too.

December  5, 2018

We've partnered with Braun Household to highlight creative ways to boost the flavors of your favorite seasonal dishes, like this creamy, soul-satisfying risotto.

My holiday dinner parties these days are much less about pomp and circumstance and much more about feeding the people I care for. I love creating a safe haven from the cold and a night off for my friends, so they don't have to cook. I provide the sustenance, they bring the wine, and everyone’s relaxed—including me. (Plus, I hate leaving the house in the winter, so this is my own way of bribing everyone to come to me.)

One of my favorite things to serve on such occasions is a wintry, comforting butternut squash and mushroom risotto that I came up with, years back, when I lived in a tiny Manhattan studio and had to feed six friends in a tiny kitchenette equipped with just one pot (my yellow Dutch oven, Alfred) and a single-burner hot plate. Even though there's no meat in the dish, it has an incomparable, umami-rich meatiness thanks to a pound of mushrooms—cooked on high, high heat till their edges almost caramelize to a crisp—and a glorious, golden hue from a creamy butternut purée that's stirred in at the very end of cooking.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

But what I really love most about this risotto is that it feeds a large horde of people in one fell swoop. (That’s my holiday dinner party trick: When in doubt, serve rice—it fills people up and lets you focus on other aspects of the night, like the cheese board, salad, and dessert.) In case the idea of a dish that needs 20 minutes of constant stirring sounds more stressful than meditative, let me walk you through the steps to guarantee a successful (and easy!) dinner party main.

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First, make sure your mushrooms—I like to use oyster, cremini, and chanterelles—sear up to a crisp. I do this with a few simple tricks: Clean them with a damp paper towel instead of rinsing them in water to reduce any excess moisture; make sure your pan is properly hot (it should be almost smoking before you add the oil); don't salt until you're done cooking (salt draws out their water, causing them to steam instead of brown); and cook in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan and cause aforementioned steaming.

Next, don't be afraid of using tools or tricks to lighten your prep load. For example, I like to use a mini chopper to blitz the shallots, garlic, and celery (Nigella Lawson taught me to always use celery in risotto for its "herbal lightness"). What this means is you're not standing there with a knife, chopping and chopping and chopping. The aromatics will melt into the rice and broth and cheese in the end, anyway.

The rest is standard risotto prep: Stir in the rice, followed by the wine, then ladleful after ladleful of chicken stock. You can use vegetable stock here, if you'd like, but note that the addition of Pecorino Romano (which traditionally uses an animal rennet) means the dish isn't totally vegetarian.

The grand finale is the butternut squash puree, for which I cut a thousand corners by buying pre-peeled and cut butternut squash. To make it, I just take a hand blender (which is so much easier to clean than a regular blender or food processor) and whir together boiled butternut squash with heavy cream and a single egg yolk, which adds a nice glossiness to the risotto. Once stirred into the rice, the puree at once loosens it all'onda ("like a wave") and dyes it an unmistakably wintry golden color.

More Wintry Wonders

What's your favorite winter dish for entertaining? Let us know in the comments below.

In partnership with Braun Household, we're excited to share more innovative ways to incorporate seasonal ingredients into your fall and winter recipes. Whether you're making a batch of DIY canned pumpkin or maple pecan cookies, Braun's lineup of products makes the prep work a breeze. Here, we used their MultiQuick9 Hand Blender to make risotto prep—from pureeing the butternut squash to chopping the shallots, garlic, and celery—so much easier.

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Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he is currently working on his first cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at Saveur, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times and follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho. Born and raised in Georgia, Eric lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson.

1 Comment

Sue P. December 13, 2018
I just made this on Sunday. It was a big hit with everyone.