Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto is so deliciously creamy and probably one of those “order at a restaurant” only dishes until today! It’s quite simple in steps, but labor intensive in stirring, with this recipe I will show you an easy way to break up the steps so you can make it ahead for the holidays or for an easy weeknight dinner.

This creamy sweet caramelized onion butternut squash risotto has all of the sweet and savory fall flavors sprinkled with warm and cozy spices.

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto – Ratio Recipe

Risotto can come in many different flavors, usually considered a vegetarian option at most restaurants or events. A creamy mushroom risotto is very popular. The recipe is very versatile, you can swap out ingredients to make it your own because it is a ratio recipe, meaning for every 1 cup of arborio rice you will use 3 cups of liquid, but I err on the side of 4 cups. In addition to this recipe, I also have a lobster risotto (warning, the recipe is a very old template but it’s all there and once you make risotto once, you will land on the perfect technique making it easy to explore different flavors.

Time and Temperature

Risotto is made with arborio rice, easily found in any grocery store, you cannot substitute white rice for this recipe. Arborio rice is an Italian short grain rice with a higher starch content than other rices, that becomes creamy, chewy and soft (not to be confused with gluten, rice, including arborio rice, is naturally gluten-free).

Risotto from start to finish requires 23 minutes of constantly stirring and managing a soft boil of your stock (or liquid). This is what makes it seem daunting, but if you’re organized and mentally prepared it goes by quickly and makes the best satisfying dish. As promised there is a way to do this in batches, the first batch is 13 minutes and then you can re-heat and finish when you’re ready to eat in 10 minutes. You can do the first batch days in advance making this an easy weeknight dinner – starting it on Sunday or perfect for the holidays.

Making Risotto Ahead

You can do this in two batches, complete the recipe below steps 1 – 8 until you’ve been stirring for 13 minutes (set a timer as soon as you start step 6. After stirring for 13 minutes, you can stop the process. To stop, spread out the risotto on a parchment paper lined sheet pan so that it is in one even layer. Store in the refrigerator, uncovered until completely cool. If you’re doing this earlier in the week from when you want to serve it, once it’s completely cooled you can cover it or transfer to a food storage container and keep in the refrigerator until you want to reheat and finish cooking.

To finish cooking, bring out of the refrigerator and let the chill come off of it while you get out the ingredients. You will add the remainder of your stock in a pot and bring it up to a slow boil. Add a 1/2 ladle of your stock to your large pan, once it’s heated to a boil, add in your risotto from the sheet pan and start right where you left off, continue to stir and add stock for the last 4-10 minutes until your rice is fully cooked, fluffy and creamy. See the steps in the recipe 9-11.

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

Roasting Butternut Squash

This step can be done ahead, or it is a perfect way to use leftovers if you have some butternut squash already made.

Roasted butternut squash is a main ingredient for this dish. It’s simple to do. You can start with a whole butternut squash, cut down the middle, remove the seeds and place it face up on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can also buy butternut squash uncooked, already cubed. Whatever fits your time and budget, the next steps are the same. Drizzle the squash with olive oil, sprinkle, with a heavy hand, some cinnamon and a pinch or two of salt. Roast in the oven on 400F until fork tender. You should be able to pierce through the meat of the squash with ease, about 32 minutes.

Once the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, but still warm you want to scoop the squash out of the skin. Then using a blender or food processor, blend until a creamy consistency until you get about 1 cup of butternut squash purée – about 1/2 of a squash.

You can also skip the blending and just cube into small bite-size pieces to toss into the risotto.

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

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Note: total prep and cook time can be divided up and prepped/cooked ahead.
4 servings as a meal, 6-8 servings as a side dish.
Prep Time52 mins
Cook Time33 mins
Total Time1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 4


Butternut Squash Purée

  • 1 small Butternut Squash
  • Drizzle of Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Salt – Divided

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

  • 4 oz Pancetta – diced
  • 1 small Onion – diced small
  • 4-5 sprigs Fresh Thyme – with leaves removed from stem
  • 4-5 leaves Fresh Sage – minced
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup White Wine
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 4 cups Vegetable Stock
  • ½ cup Butternut Squash Purée (see recipe and blog notes)
  • ½ cup Parmesan Cheese – shredded off the block
  • Pinch Black Pepper


Butternut Squash Purée

  • Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Cut your butternut squash, scoop out the seeds. Place on your baking sheet, facing upward. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and ¼ tsp of salt.
    Roast until it's fork tender, about 32 minutes. Set it aside to cool while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Once the butternut squash is cooled, scoop it out from the skin. Using a blender or food processor, blend until it is a purée consistency – you will need about 1/2 cup total – set aside.
    (optional: skip this step and just dice into small bite size pieces)

Creamy Sweet Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Risotto

  • Prep all of the ingredients. This is important for risotto because once you start stirring the rice, you will not have time to to step away. Make sure everything is measured and ready.
  • In a large pan, sauté the pancetta until crispy, remove from the heat, keeping the fat in the pan, remove the crispy pancetta to a paper towel. Set aside.
  • Over medium heat, in the same pan as the pancetta fat, add in your onion, fresh herbs and salt. Slowing cook your onions until they are soft, translucent and the herbs become fragrant.
    Continue to cook until they are a rich brown caramelized color, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  • As your onions cook, in a small sauce pot, add in your 4 cups of vegetable stock and grab a ladle. Bring the your stock up to a low boil.
    If you are making ahead, only bring up about 2½ cups of stock to a boil, save the rest for later.
  • Once your onions are soft and caramelized, add in your arborio rice and deglaze with your white wine. Pour in your wine and allow it to evaporate almost entirely.
  • As the wine evaporates, lower your heat to a low-medium heat and add in ½ of a ladle of your hot stock and stir continuously – this is the start of the 23 minutes.
  • As your stock leaves the pan you will want to add another ½ ladle of your hot stock as you continue to stir. Let the stock almost dry up before adding your next ladle. Stir. Stir. Stir.
  • Over time you notice the rice will start to plump up and there will be a start to a creamy residue. Keep up the good work!
  • After 17-23 minutes of repeating steps 7 & 8 (sometime a little longer if it's your first time), check the bite. You want the rice to be soft and chewy, if it's still too hard, keep going with the same technique. You shouldn't run out of stock, but if you do, quickly heat up water to finish the risotto. Don't worry this will not jeopardize all of your hard work, the flavors will still be there!
  • Once your rice is soft and chewy, remove from the heat. Stir in your butternut squash purée, parmesan cheese, crispy pancetta and black pepper.
  • Serve immediately.

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