Butternut Squash Risotto with Chicken and Pancetta

Several years ago, on a date night with D, I ate the butternut squash risotto from Brio on the Plaza and vowed to learn how to make it at home. I think I have gotten pretty close, although that might just be because I have gotten better at making risotto. My recipe is cobbled together from several different sources and every fall, when the butternut squash starts showing up in grocery stores, I have to go back to all of my cookbooks and try to re-cobble together what I did the last time I made it. This time I vowed to write it down.


– 2 cups water (divided)

– 28 oz. beef broth (2 cans)

– 4 Tbs butter (divided)

– ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

– 1 Tbs minced garlic

– ½ a large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

– Salt and pepper to taste

– 1 ½ cups Arborio rice (or any other short-grain rice)

– ½ cup white wine

– ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

– 2 small chicken breast, cooked and diced

– 1/3 cup diced pancetta, cooked

– 2 Tbs finely chopped fresh parsley

First, a note on preparation time: This recipe can take upwards of an hour. To make it more manageable for the weeknight, the night or weekend before I chop my onion, cube my butternut squash, and cook my chicken and pancetta. This can bring my time at the stove down 30 to 40 minutes. But be warned, as with any risotto, once you add in the rice you will be stuck by the stove until the end.

Second, a note on preparing the butternut squash: When I first started this effort, I had never cooked with butternut squash before, had no idea how to efficiently get into the thing, and took most of the evening just dicing my squash. Here’s how I do it now: (1) Peel the tough outer skin off your squash. You can use a paring knife, but I just use a vegetable peeler. It has to be a sturdy “Y” shaped peeler; my stick shaped peeler is just too wimpy. (2) Cut the whole bugger in half and scoop out the seeds. (Save the seeds. They can be toasted in a little bit of olive oil and salt, just like you would pumpkin seeds). (3) Cut into a ¾ inch dice. You only need half of a squash for this recipe, but I usually just dice the whole thing. The other half will keep in the fridge and can be used as a side or in another recipe later in the week.

Okay, then. On to the recipe proper:

1. In a saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups water and broth to a simmer. Cover and keep hot over low heat.

2. Melt 2 Tbs butter in a Dutch Oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook 5-8 minutes or until golden and tender. Add the remaining ½ cup water, squash, salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes, or until squash is tender and the water has almost evaporated.

3. Add the rice and stir to coat, then add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of the hot broth mixture and cook until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue to add the broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is fully cooked and the mixture is creamy (about 20 to 30 minutes total).

4. Just before the rice is ready, add in your cooked chicken and pancetta, just so they warm up. Then add in your cheese, remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter, and parsley. Serve immediately. Num.

*I did have a picture of this to share with you, but I forgot to take it until after we had eaten half of the risotto.  Not quite as pretty and appetizing…

About Shannon K.

My name is Shannon. I make stuff up.
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