OVEN-BAKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO

I love a good risotto but am often put off just by the thought of standing over a hot hob constantly stirring rice for 30 plus minutes. I usually end up an overheated, irritable mess that's consumed half a bottle of white wine in the process and am not actually hungry by the time it's ready to eat! Oven-baked risotto, however, is a game changer. The oven does all the hard work so you don't have to and although I was hugely cynical when I first discovered a recipe for one, I am now evangelical about them. This one is now a regular favourite with all of us, the little one particularly likes it too!  So when I'm out of inspiration for the veggie and I need an easy crowd pleaser, this is my go-to.

Roasted Butternut squash gives this dish a nice, rich, slightly sweet taste which works really well with the parmesan (sometimes I roast carrots with the squash if I have them so I can get extra veg into junior!). As the roasted squash cooks down into the risotto, it lends the rice more 'goo' and the whole thing becomes a really comforting dish. This can easily be done as a weeknight meal, it just takes a bit of advanced preparation. You can roast the Butternut squash ahead of time and then freeze it in a large freezer bag. Simply take it out to defrost a good 5 hours before you want to make the risotto and the rest can be done in under an hour!

Equipment: You will need a medium-sized roasting tin, a large heavy bottomed saucepan and a 9" square shallow ovenproof dish roughly 2 inches deep (here I used 9x12") 

Ingredients:

1 Medium sized Butternut squash

4 Garlic cloves

1-2 TBSP Olive oil

1 Medium sized onion finely chopped ( I like using white onions as they're sweeter)

184g Italian Carnaroli risotto rice

50g Unsalted butter

1 Stock cube chicken or veg (I use this one if I'm cooking this for my son)

670ml Boiling water

50ml Medium vermouth (I use Noilly Prat - both the name and bottle are amazing)

3 TBSP Freshly grated parmesan

Salt and pepper (I don't bother with either if I'm giving this to my son as the parmesan gives it all you need)

 

Roast the Butternut squash:

Pre-heat your oven to 180c fan, 350F, Gas mark 4

1. Chop your Butternut squash into smallish chunks (don't worry about peeling it). Add to a roasting tin big enough to spread it all out. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil depending on how big your squash is, then mix together with your hands to make sure it's all well coated

2. Nestle the 4 unpeeled garlic cloves amongst the squash so they're slightly protected from the heat of your oven and will go gooey rather than dry out. Roast for 20 minutes or until the squash is soft but not squishy - it will cook more with the risotto

Making the risotto:

1. 5 minutes before your Butternut squash is due to finish roasting, peel and finely dice your onion. In a large saucepan add the butter and melt over a low-medium heat. Once melted add the onion and continue to cook over a low heat for 5 minutes (you want it soft not brown)

2. Once you've removed your Butternut squash turn your oven down to 150C fan, 300F, Gas Mark 2

3. Add approximately half the roasted Butternut squash and the gooey garlic cloves, popping them out of their skins, to the onion and continue to cook over a low heat for ten minutes until the onion is soft and the squash starts to get even softer and mushy

4. Add 670ml of boiling water to a heatproof jug, add the stock cube and stir until mixed. You can use homemade or shop bought ready to use stock just make sure the total measure added is 670ml. If you don't want to include the vermouth just make the total stock 720ml but I think without the vermouth it's just not quite the same

5. Add the rice to the onion and butternut squash and stir, making sure you coat it all in the mixture. Add the vermouth and the stock and bring to the boil

6. Whilst this is coming to a boil pop your ovenproof dish into the oven to warm

7. Once the risotto mix has started boiling, turn off the heat and carefully pour it into your ovenproof dish then add the rest of your roasted Butternut squash, roughly mix it and spread it out into an even layer. Put it into the oven for exactly 20 minutes

8. After 20 minutes get the risotto out the oven and stir in 3 Tablespoons of grated parmesan. Make sure you gently turn over the grains of rice as you mix in the cheese then spread it back out into an even layer once done 

9. Put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on it, if your oven runs on the hotter side your risotto may be done after 10 minutes! Just keep checking it looks moist and gooey and isn't starting to dry out. You will know it's done by tasting some of the rice which should be soft and gooey but still with a little 'bite' to it

Serve immediately as risotto doesn't like sitting around. If you're anything like me you'll add a handful more parmesan on top of each serving just for good measure. A green salad goes really well with this and makes you feel a little less guilty about the extra cheese!