Open Arms of Minnesota

Weekly Recipe #145: Butternut Squash & Sage Winter Risotto

By Samantha Iovino, University of Minnesota – The Emily Program Dietetic Intern

Butternut Squash & Sage Winter Risotto

(Serves 4-5)

Photo Credit: Galant/Flickr

I grew up at my mother’s apron strings. She taught me how to make fresh pasta, tomato sauce, creamy polenta, and vegetable ragouts. She taught me how to cook intuitively and mindfully, tasting, trying, and adjusting as we cooked. She taught me how to “make something out of nothing”, or how to create a delicious, satisfying meal out of simple, quality ingredients. Most importantly, she taught me how to be fearless and to be open to mistakes and successes in the kitchen.

Her risotto recipe is the epitome of all the lessons I learned from her in the kitchen—intuition, patience, fearlessness, and simplicity. I always watched her in awe as she created a creamy, hearty risotto from some rice and whatever veggies she had on hand in 30 minutes flat. I know that most folks are intimidated by risotto, but it’s really a simple process once you get the hang of it and if you let go of the fear! Best of all, you can adjust the flavors and ingredients based on the season.

Here, I’ve shared with you her basic risotto recipe with some butternut squash and fragrant sage for winter. Feel free to substitute the vegetables, herbs, and spices as the seasons change!


  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (Note: you may not use all of the stock!)
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and diced into small cubes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 c. Arborio rice
  • 10-11 sage leaves
  • 1/4 c. + more for garnish freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese


  1. In a medium stock pot, heat stock to a rolling boil, then lower the heat to keep warm.
  2. In another medium-large pot, pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat over medium heat.
  3. Once olive oil is heated, add the onions and stir occasionally until onion are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (about a minute). You may need to lower the heat to avoid browning both the onion and garlic.
  5. Add the butternut squash and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add 1 tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. pepper
  7. Next, add 1 cup of Arborio rice and stir until the rice is translucent (the rice will literally go from white to clear looking, so just be patient!)
  8. Once the rice is translucent, use a ladle to add enough of the stock to just about cover your rice.
  9. Raise the heat to bring to a gentle boil and stir occasionally.
  10. Once the stock has been just about completely absorbed, add another ladle-full of stock and stir occasionally.
  11. Repeat Step 10 as many times as necessary until risotto is “al-dente” – the rice will be tender, but firm when you taste it!
  12. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper to taste.
  13. Once “al-dente”, turn off the heat and stir in 5-6 sage leaves and ¼ c. freshly grated cheese.
  14. Serve warm and top with some extra cheese and a sage leaf or two.
  15. Enjoy! Buon appetito!

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