Butternut squash risotto is a rich, creamy dish infused with butter, and cheese then topped with smoky pancetta. This easy risotto recipe is super satisfying and a must during the cooler months!
Butternut squash risotto with pancetta tastes like fall in a dish. This is the ultimate comfort meal: roasted butternut squash, creamy parmesan risotto, and crisp pancetta make it a fall-worthy favorite. Cozy up with a bowl of this and it will keep you warm on a cool evening.
Why This Recipe Works
- Simple – Making risotto for the first time can seem intimidating as it’s know for continuous stirring, but this recipe is simple to follow, trust me.
- Balanced meal – Risotto infused with butternut squash is not only delicious, but nutritious, and a great way to sneak in vegetables for those picky eaters.
- Versatile – You can easily mix and match elements of this recipe so that it suits your tastes and preferences.
What is Risotto?
Risotto is an Italian rice dish made with arborio rice slowly cooked in broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. You can add cheese, protein, and vegetables but risotto by itself is a delicious side dish.
Tools You’ll Need
- Heavy bottom pot
Ingredients You Will Need for Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
Roasted Butternut Squash
- Butternut squash – Cut it into ¼-inch cubes so that it cooks faster.
- Olive oil – Drizzle this over the squash before baking.
- Fresh sage – The sweet, savory flavor of sage adds to that cozy, autumn element.
- Salt and pepper – Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.
- Pancetta – The salty, smoky flavor of cooked pancetta is a nice crisp addition to this smooth, savory dish.
- Olive oil – Go for the good stuff. Olive oil is used to sauté the risotto and finished over the top, just before serving.
- Aromatics – I used finely chopped shallots and minced garlic for that familiar, savory taste.
- Fresh thyme – Add this herb roughly chopped.
- Arborio rice – This short grain rice is starchier than long grain rice. As the rice boils, it releases starch which gives this dish that creamy consistency.
- White wine – I use Sauvignon Blanc for a rich, tangy flavor.
- Chicken broth – Using a broth instead of water provides a more flavorful risotto. Just make sure it’s low sodium.
- Cheese – Use freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano because it blends better than pre-shredded cheese. Mascarpone makes the risotto even smoother.
- Butter – Salted butter
How to Make Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
If you have not made risotto before, keep in mind that while this recipe is straightforward, risotto does take patience. Continuous stirring and adding of broth is required until risotto is cooked through.
- Roast the squash. Preheat oven at 400°F for 30-40 minutes or until soft and cooked through. Once done, remove them from the oven, mash with a fork and set aside.
- Prepare the pancetta. While the squash is roasting, in a heavy bottom pot, add 1 teaspoon of oil then pancetta and cook over medium-high heat. Cook until the pancetta is nice and crispy. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate and discard the excess oil.
- Warm the stock. Now add stock to a saucepan. Bring it to a boil then lower to a simmer.
- Sauté aromatics. Add oil to a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. add the shallots and cook for about 6 minutes before adding garlic and thyme. Cook for another 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and mix well.
- Cook arborio rice. Add arborio rice and stir until some grains are translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add white wine and cook and stir until liquid reduces by about half. Then, add one ladle of broth, keeping a consistent stir until the broth is absorbed. Repeat this step for 30 minutes, until risotto is firm and most of the broth is absorbed.
- Add butternut squash. Stir until well combined. Then add parmesan, mascarpone, butter and ¾ of pancetta. Stir until completely mixed. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and black pepper if necessary.
- Serve immediately. In a low bowl with garnish with remaining pancetta, fresh black pepper, and a glug of olive oil.
- Winter Squash – You can swap out butternut squash for any other variety. Consider buttercup squash, delicata squash, and even pumpkin.
- Rice – I love arborio rice but carnoli rice has a higher starch content and would work well as a substitute.
- Vegetables – Another serving of veggies won’t hurt. Throw in some peas!
- Dairy Free – Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, just a few substitutions and omissions can make this a vegan butternut squash risotto. Skip the cheese and meat. Replace the butter with vegan butter or additional olive oil. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Tips and Tricks
- If you need to save some time, you can make portions of this recipe ahead. Prepare the squash and pancetta the night before and refrigerate. Let the ingredients return to room temperature before you begin making the risotto.
- Don’t rinse the rice. We’ve been taught to do that for long grain rices like jasmine and basmati but in this instance, we want that starch. This is how you get that porridge-like consistency.
- Stir constantly. This step is a must. This starchy rice can easily stick to the pan and burn so stirring prevents this. The rice also softens as you stir.
- Keep the stock warm. You gradually add stock to the risotto. Keep the stock warm so the rice absorbs the liquid more quickly.
- Enjoy the process. Risotto takes some patience and love. You’re preparing this on a stovetop. Take a sip of wine, enjoy the aromas and get ready to enjoy the best butternut squash risotto you’ve ever had!
Frequently Asked Questions
What goes well with butternut squash risotto?
Butternut squash would be an excellent side dish for a chicken, steak, salmon, or turkey entree.
How to store leftovers?
Leftover risotto should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within 4 days. For a longer shelf life, freeze for up to one month. After a couple of days in the fridge, it will thicken so when reheating, add a little chicken stock or water to loosen it up.
Looking for more Butternut Squash Recipes?
- Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup
- Brown Butter Sage Butternut Squash
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Loving this Recipe?
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Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
- Heavy bottom pot
- 1 pound butternut squash, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 1½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
- ¼ cup garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine, I use Sauvignon Blanc
- 5½ cups chicken broth, low sodium
- ½ cup parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup mascarpone
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Roast squash: Place cut squash on a prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil then season with kosher salt, black pepper, and chopped sage.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes or until soft and cooked through. Remove from oven, mash with a fork and set aside.
- Cook pancetta: In a heavy bottom pot, add 1 teaspoon of oil then pancetta and cook over medium-high heat. Cook until the pancetta is nice and crispy. Place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside and discard oil.
- Stock: Add stock to a saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Keep a ladle nearby and be sure to keep stock warm.
- Risotto: Add oil to a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and mix well.
- Next, add arborio rice and stir until some grains are translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add white wine and cook and stir until liquid reduces by about half.
- Next, add one ladle of broth, keeping a consistent stir until broth is absorbed. Repeat this step for 30 minutes, until risotto is firm and most of the broth is absorbed.
- Add mashed butternut squash and stir until well combined.
- Add parmesan, mascarpone, butter and ¾ of pancetta. Stir until completely mixed. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and black pepper if necessary.
- Serve immediately in a low bowl with garnish with remaining pancetta, fresh pepper, and a glug of olive oil.