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Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon & Sage

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Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a starter.

Though what we commonly think of as comfort food is often slow-cooked, it doesn't have to be that way. This dish is what we like to call weeknight comfort food: a full-bodied squash risotto with crumbled bacon and flavor-boosting sage.  

  • 1 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth; more as needed   
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced butternut squash
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio or other risotto rice, such as carnaroli or vialone nano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chicken broth and wine in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. In a medium (3-qt.) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and fry, turning once, until they’ve turned dark green in most places, about 1 minute total. Don’t brown. With a fork, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Put the bacon in the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the plate with the sage.

Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the squash and rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Ladle in enough of the hot broth mixture to just cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed. Add another ladleful of broth and continue cooking, stirring, and adding more ladlefuls of broth as the previous additions are absorbed, until the rice is tender with just a slightly toothsome quality, about 25 minutes. As the risotto cooks, adjust the heat so that it bubbles gently. The broth mixture needn’t be boiling; it should just be hot. If you use all the broth and wine before the rice gets tender, use more broth but not more wine.

Set aside the nicest looking sage leaves as a garnish (1 leaf per serving). Crumble half of the bacon and the remaining sage leaves into the risotto. Stir in the Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the remaining bacon over each serving and garnish with a sage leaf.

Serving Suggestions

If serving as a starter, follow up the risotto with chicken or pork. Try Pork Chops with Maple-Ginger Pan Sauce.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 350; Fat (g): fat g 10; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3; Protein (g): protein g 13; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 51; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 390; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 10; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is a regular in our dinner rotation, tons of flavor, warm and comforting. Five stars just isn't enough for this recipe!

Maybe it's just that the older I get, the higher flavor I need. I found this risotto okay, but not my favorite of all the risotto dishes I make (e.g., red pepper risotto, asparagus and mushroom risotto, and others). This one would make a decent side dish, but not a main dish, which is how I usually serve risotto for the two of us, with perhaps some marinated, grilled shrimp on top. I made this as directed, except that I got rid of some of the bacon grease before adding the other ingredients; to be fair, maybe that's why I didn't like it as well as the other reviewers.

I had my doubts while cooking this but it turned out to be fabulous. It does take a lot more broth than called for. I used about half the bacon grease. 3 cups of squash and next time I might add a little more. 1/2 cup of shallots and only 1/4 cup of cheese. I also roasted the squash tossed with a little olive oil at 400 for 20 minutes and added it when almost half way through the rice cooking time. A really great recipe.

Five stars all the way! This is excellent. I have made it several times and each time it is sublime. Following some hints from other reviewers I also reduce the bacon fat. By a lot. I also roast the squash prior to adding to the risotto. The taste is fantastic even with these two tweaks to the recipe. A true comfort food.

Excellent!!! This was my fourth time trying different Risotto recipes and this was my favorite. The squash gave it a nice sweet surprise and the bacon, of course, was wonderful. I did drain a little of the bacon grease out because I used thick cut bacon and I used 5 slices instead of 4. Will absolutely make again!!

I loved this. Doubled the amt of bacon and served as a main course. Drained off most of the bacon fat so wasn't greasy at all. Squash was cooked but not mushy and so pretty! The sage was also easy to make and added nice color and texture. will make this again.

I enjoyed this risotto. It needed a little acid for my taste (squeeze of lemon)... but perhaps this is because I ended up using a different winter squash. Will definitely make again. Next time I would add more sage.

Made it as it was written. Did not successfully fry the sage- it turned brown. There was quite a bit of bacon grease in the pan. I drained off quite a bit but next time will drain off even more. The grease made it bacony enough so I did not add crumbled bacon at the end. Made this with the pork chops with maple-ginger pan sauce. Delicious dinner but it took quite a while to assemble all the ingredients (not sure how to spell mis en place) :) Cut squash into small pieces and cooked it in the pan- I did not roast it first in the oven as other reviewers did and it turned out fine.

I've made this several times. The two things I do differently: cut the squash into 1/2 - 3/4 inch dice, toss in olive oil, and roast in a 400 degree oven for app. 20 minutes. While the squash is roasting, dice a small onion, and carmelize. Toward the end of the cooking time for the rice, add the squash and the onion. Sometimes I add in some shredded, roasted chicken.

This made a lovely autumn dinner - the risotto turned out mild, rich and mellow. I added more sage and roasted the squash first. I served it with a spinach salad with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds and a light lemon/olive oil dressing. I did have one concern: The recipe as I made it is very high in fat. After cooking the bacon, I had at least 1/2 cup of bacon fat mixed with the olive oil in the saute pan. Since the recipe didn't call for draining it off, I proceeded to cook the shallots, rice and squash in it. Next time, I would eliminate the excess bacon fat by cooking the bacon separately, draining off the fat, and then sauteing the vegetables, adding a little olive oil to the pan as needed.

The layering of flavors-bacon cooked with the olive oil, sage, Parmesan, wine -made this one of the best things I've ever made. This was high-end restaurant quality. Served with the suggested pork chops with maple&ginger, it was an exceptional dinner.

My husband prepared this dish last night--it was delicious. Normally we enjoy savory dishes over sweet and the buttternut squash did give the risotto a slight sweet taste, but the sage and bacon balanced it out perfectly. He followed the recipe and cooked the squash in the risotto rather than roasting first---maybe if the squash was roasted first and added later the sweetness would be lessened. Either way, it was delicious! Served with a simple salad.

Oh my this was good--so good that my husband and I ate it all!!! I did need quite a bit more broth (500 ml, 2 cups) but I thought the amount of broth was a bit stingy based on other risotto I've made. I like the idea of roasting the squash a bit first as it seemed a bit hard when I thought the rice was done. However, a few more minutes of cooking and it was done.The fried sage leaves were surprisingly good and the cooking seemed to mellow the flavour quite a bit. I would cook even more next time. This is a keeper and perfect for a cool fall dinner.

Very nice! Like others, I would roast the squash, if had time for a weekend meal, and if using fresh sage, add more. But as is, it is perfectly good for a quick weeknight, nutritious meal. Spinach & cranberry salad was good on the side.

I loved this dish! Even my three-year-old enjoyed this. Next time I make it, I will add even more bacon and fried sage though. I used beef bacon, and that smokey flavor is what makes this dish come alive.

We loved it! Made as written except that I added the wine to the risotto as the first liquid addition (after stirring the rice into the shallots) rather than mixing it in the broth; as well I did not add the squash until after the wine was absorbed either. Yes the parmesan taste was fairly prominent but we liked that; add less if you don't care for parm. Sage is a pretty intense herb so be cautious about adding more. All in all this was fantastic and easy; elegant enough for company, simple & fast enough for a weeknight. We served it with seared sea scallops, which I seared in some of the excess bacon fat for extra flavor.

Fantastic - great flavour. I added the squash in with the soften shallots for a few mins before adding the rice. The cooking of the time took about 40 mins and required more liquid for me. Huge hit at my dinner party, this will be a repeat!

I thought this was good, but the parmesan flavor really was the most prominent. I would next time add more sage during the cooking process-fried or not. Also would roast the squash too. The flavor from it wasn't noticable at all.

I roasted the squash, as the previous reviewer had done, and added it to the cooked risotto. I also used turkey bacon. I actually omitted the cheese altogether and it was still delicious. The fried sage is a great addition and I crumbled it and mixed it in at the end.

Wow!

I was really excited to make this but was really disappointed when it was done. I'm a big cheese fan, but after I added the parmesan it took over the other flavours and ended up being the only thing I could taste. I would definitely not make this again.

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