Risotto is comfort food for me. Once I discovered how easy it is to make at home, it became one of my favorite meals to make as a special treat for myself, in many forms. I love it with tomato, or cheeses, or corn or butternut squash or pumpkin. I actually find the process of stirring and adding the broth a little at a time sort of soothing and meditative. But it is a bit of a process. The first time a saw a recipe for slow cooker risotto, I was sceptical. I’ve never had much luck with oven baked risotto recipes and I assumed this idea would produce similar results. Eventually I gave it try and turns out, the slow cooker is a great way to make risotto. It produces a rich and creamy dish with so very little effort. You can keep it warm for about half an hour after it is finished (but not too much longer) and it will keep that creaminess. I eat a bowl of risotto as a meal in itself, but it is also a great side to a roast or a chicken.
I melt the butter and oil in the slow cooker then add the onions just to let them get soft and glassy. Add in the remaining ingredients and get on with your life. The butternut squash melts into the rice and the sage adds a perfectly complementary flavor. I buy 10 to 12 ounce bags of frozen butternut squash, which are very handy to have in the freezer. You must use arborio rice for risotto (or canaroli) to create the creamy, starchy loveliness and it is readily available at many grocery stores. Do add a generous amount of salt at the beginning of cooking – it’s very hard to get the finished product salty without adding a ton. A whole sprig of sage flavors the broth without overpowering and freshly chopped sage stirred in at the end adds a fresh, woodsy note.
Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, divided
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ¼ cups arborio rice
10 ounce bag frozen butternut squash (pieces, not puree)
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon sea salt
3 sprigs fresh sage
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in the crock of a slow cooker set on high. Add the onions, stir to coat in the butter and oil and spread into an even layer. Cover the crock and cook for about 30 minutes until the onions are soft and glossy. Add the garlic and cook a further two minutes, then pour in the rice and stir to coat it in the butter – completely coat all the grains. Add the squash and pour in the broth and salt and stir. Drop in a sprig of sage, cover the crock and set it to cook for 3 hours on high. After an hour and a half, remove the cover and stir, breaking up the pieces of squash which will fall apart and blend into the rice. Continue to cook, checking every 30 minutes until the rice is al dente. If needed, you can add a bit more broth or water. Finely chop the leaves of the remaining sage sprigs. When the rice is cooked through, but with a little bite, remove the sage sprig and stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and the parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Add the chopped sage and stir to distribute evenly. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Serve the risotto within half an hour, sprinkled with some extra parmesan cheese if wanted.