the flavors of butternut and sage compliment eachother so well that they have become a standard pairing in most food dishes. there are times when i feel compelled to push the envelope when it comes to spices...but this, like lamb and rosemary, just shouldn't be messed with.
the risotto itself is creamy and smooth with the perfect amount of bite. the butternut has intense flavors of creamy sweetness that are layered with salt and spice. together, they are a winning combination.
there are plenty of risotto "recipes" out there, this is just what works for me. a lot of people are scared of risotto, but to be honest the technique is really one of the simplest in cooking...
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
4 to 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine
1 cup dry white wine (plus more for sipping while cooking)
5 tablespoons of butter, seperated
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced fine
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup of parmigianno regianno, grated fine, plus extra for garnish
5 - 6 leaves of fresh sage, minced fine
heat the oven to 415 degrees. place prepared butternut onto a large rimmed baking sheet and add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste, and enough olive oil to coat (but not drown) the butternut. mix it all through with your hands and then pop into the oven. (keep and eye on this while you are making the risotto, mixing it around ocassionally if you need to so it won't burn. if you put it in right before you start, it should be ready exactly when you need it.)
in a small pot, heat all of the stock over a low fire to take the chill off. in a large pan, melt 2 of the tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add in the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. stir the onion until it starts to become transparent and then add the rice and 2 more tablespoons of the butter. stir the rice for about 2 minutes to absorb the butter and make sure it is all well coated. add in the wine and stir until it absorbs.
once the wine absorbs you will begin adding the chicken (or veggie, depending on your preferences) stock into the rice slowly. the only tricks to risotto are to slowly add the stock so that the rice absorbs a little at a time...and to stir it well in order to break down the starches in the rice. i suggest adding about a half a cup at at time. stir it through, give it a minute, and then come back and stir it again. you'll know when it needs more because there will be no liquid in the pan. it's important not to let the rice dry out enough so that it will stick. risotto requires a watchful eye, so don't stray too far. keep feeding the stock to the rice until there is only a little bit left (between a half a cup and a cup.) at this point, add in the sage and half of the cheese. mix through and add in the rest of the cheese and mix again. turn off heat.
remove the butternut from the oven. it should be soft (and squish between your fingers or tongs when you hold it) and a little carmalized on the edges...but not burned. add all of the butternut to the pan with the risotto and mix through. a lot of the butternut will break up, and that's ok, it's supposed to. add in the rest of the stock (the butternut makes the mixture thick) and mix, then serve warm with more grated parmigianno reggiano.
i served ours with a grilled chicken breast, and it was great. however, the flavors of the butternut and sage could also stand up well to heartier meats like lamb, and would compliment delicate seafood as well.
i believe this is one of the only things i've made that has garnered a whole-hearted approval from my husband on the first try...try it, it's really good (and good for you! kinda.)