Food and Nutrition

This Cozy, Plant-Based Squash Risotto Ticks All the Comfort Food Boxes

Emily Laurence

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Risotto is the Oprah of rice dishes: really rich and really comforting. Traditionally, the ingredients that bring out these traits are lots of butter and Parmesan cheese. (Like, a lot.) That means if you’re vegan or dairy-free, you typically have to sit the risotto party out…until now.

In the latest episode of Cook With Us, Tepuy Collective founder and chef Adriana Urbina shows how to make a butternut squash risotto that’s just as yummy as the dairy-full version. “I love this recipe because it’s herby, hearty, and absolutely delicious,” Urbina says.

Unlike other butternut squash risotto recipes, which combine the cooked squash with rice and cheese, Urbina uses butternut squash as the “rice” itself. The key is to chop it very thinly so it resembles the grain. Urbina shows exactly how to do this using a knife in the video and also shows how to make rice-like risotto using a food processor. (Hint: It’s a major timesaver.) Besides the squash, Urbina also mixes in onion, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

Remember how she referred to the vegan risotto as herby? That’s because homemade pesto is incorporated right into it, made with asparagus, lime, leeks, and nutritional yeast. Between the squash and the asparagus in the pesto sauce, there is so much glorious fiber packed into this dish.

Watch the episode to see exactly how to cook the asparagus and leeks to make the pesto and how to marry it to the butternut squash “rice.” The end result? A delicious vegetarian risotto that’s full of veggies and healthy fats (from the olive oil) that is (almost) completely dairy-free (there’s Parmesan added at the end, but you can use vegan Parm if you like to keep it completely plant-based). “You can have this as a main dish or as a side [with a protein],” Urbina says. Either way, it brings the type of comfort that will warm you up on cold, winter nights.

Butternut squash “riceless” risotto

Ingredients

For the risotto:
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves ( thinly sliced)
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped

For the pesto:
2 cup green asparagus, chopped
1 cup of chopped leeks
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast, optional
1 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano, to taste

Grated Pecorino Romano, optional
Maldon salt or other flaky salt, to taste
Chopped herbs, to taste

1. First, prepare the pesto: Snap off and discard the woody ends of the green asparagus, wash them well and chop them into similar size pieces. Rinse the leeks well, removing any soil.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add the chopped leeks, submerging them in the water for 1 additional minute to take the raw edge off. Do not overcook! Immediately drain the asparagus and leeks, reserving the cooking liquid in a separate bowl.

3. Rinse the vegetables under very cold water, or submerge them in an ice bath to halt the cooking process. Reserve 2-3 pieces of asparagus for garnish.

4. Add the cooked asparagus, leeks, and remaining sauce ingredients (except for the salt and cheese) to a blender and process on high until smooth. Add cheese and salt, taste for seasoning. If necessary, add more cooking liquid to achieve a thinner sauce.

5. Next, start the risotto: Working in batches, place the squash in a food processor and pulse until it reaches a rice-like consistency.

6. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and salt. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 6 minutes.

7. Add the squash to the pan once the onions are caramelized and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the pesto. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is completely tender. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional cheese, Maldon salt, and herbs (including reserved asparagus pieces) if desired.

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