Quick, easy and endlessly adaptable, risotto is the ultimate autumnal comfort food. Master the art of the classic Italian dish with these three simple recipes.
Now that August is over, the simple pleasures of autumn – chunky knits, crunchy leaves and comfort food – are finally within our grasp. And while we could sing the praises of classic macaroni and cheese, aromatic curries and rich one-pot stews all day long, there’s something about a creamy risotto that makes it the perfect dish for the transitional period between late summer and autumn proper.
If the idea of risotto takes you back to the smell of burning pans during GCSE food technology classes, don’t be put off. The classic Italian dish is satisfyingly straightforward to make, and once you’ve mastered a basic risotto recipe, you can move onto wondrous new variations – using it as a canvas for whatever ingredients you happen to have in the fridge.
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Below, we’ve three delicious risotto recipes that will make ideal midweek meals or elegant dinner party dishes. A classic risotto is made vibrant with handfuls of yellowy-orange butternut squash, while the luxurious vegan beetroot recipe is similarly straightforward (and just as beautiful to look at).
If you want to take things up a notch, meanwhile, try the recipe for monkfish and asparagus risotto with lashings of lemon thyme butter. Just remember to keep stirring…
Creamy butternut squash risotto recipe
Rachel Phipps says: “Every time I have butternut squash in the fridge this is the thing I want to make the most. It is basically one big – rather elegant – autumnal hug in a bowl.
“If this is your first time making risotto, don’t panic, it’s really easy. Take cooking times with a pinch of salt and gradually add the stock until you’re happy with the consistency. I’ve included measurements and timings here but, depending on how hot your hob is, and the size and thickness of your pan, you might need more or less stock than that. It’s okay to add more if your rice still has a bit too much bite to it. Once you’ve made a couple of risottos, you’ll know what works best.”
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
- unsalted butter
- 1 small onion
- 150g butternut squash, grated
- 100g butternut squash, cubed
- 150g risotto rice
- 100ml (6 tbsp) dry white wine
- 800ml hot vegetable stock
- 15g (3 tbsp) parmesan shavings (make sure you use a vegetarian version if this matters to you), plus extra to serve
- ½ tbsp fresh sage
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a knob of butter in a shallow casserole dish or large frying pan over a medium heat. Peel and finely chop the onion and gently fry it, along with a good pinch of sea salt, for roughly 5 minutes until it has softened and darkened in colour, but has not yet started to brown.
Add both the grated and cubed squash and cook for a further 15 minutes until the grated squash is tender and the cubes have started to soften.
Stir in the risotto rice and cook for another couple of minutes until the rice is hot.
Turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir in the white wine and allow to bubble away. Add a ladle of the hot stock and again allow it to bubble away, stirring every few minutes. Keep going for 35–40 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Stir in the Parmesan and another small knob of butter, then season to taste with more salt and pepper. Stir in the sage just before serving in two warm bowls topped with a little more cheese.
From One Pan Pescatarian: 100 Delicious Dinners – Veggie, Vegan, Fish by Rachel Phipps (£20, Hodder & Stoughton), out now
Vegan beetroot risotto recipe
A risotto is a great staple for everyday eating. This simple vegan recipe is particularly tasty and its colour will always be a conversation point too.
- 500g raw beetroot (about 2 medium–large)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 6–8-cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 400g risotto rice, such as Arborio
- 200ml vegan white wine
- 850ml vegetable stock
- grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1–2 lemons, to taste
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves finely chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Individually wrap the beetroot/beets in kitchen foil and put them on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then rub off the skin using the foil and cut the beetroot/beets into cubes. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onions and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.
Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan if the onions are sticking. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for 1–2 minutes. Add the rice and cook until it turns opaque. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add a quarter of the stock and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Continue to add the stock in stages, stirring constantly until the rice is soft but still has bite. Remove from the heat, then stir in the lemon zest and juice. Next stir in the beetroot and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. The consistency should be thick and creamy; add additional stock if required.
Spoon into warmed serving bowls and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
From The Flexitarian Cookbook: Adaptable Recipes for Part-Time Vegetarians and Vegans (£14.99, Ryland, Peters & Small), out now
Monkfish and asparagus risotto with lemon thyme butter recipe
Ursula Ferrigno says: “Do use the tail of the monkfish for the dish and ask your fishmonger to remove the membrane from the tail as this can be a bit tricky. This is popular with my family and husband who have an aversion to fish bones.”
- 750ml vegetable stock
- 8 new-season asparagus spears, sliced diagonally, reserve the woody stems for the broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 50g tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 225g carnaroli rice
- 600g monkfish tail
- fresh lemon thyme leaves, to garnish
For the lemon thyme butter:
- 50g tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- a generous handful of fresh lemon thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
To make the lemon thyme butter, mix the ingredients together and wrap in clingfilm. Chill until firm.
Heat the stock in a pan and add the woody asparagus stems.
In a wide-based pan, heat the oil and butter and sweat the shallots until golden. Now add the rice and continue to stir for 2 minutes. Start adding a ladle of stock at a time to the rice and stir well between each addition. Repeat this process until the rice is al dente, then stir in the asparagus spears.
Meanwhile, season the monkfish tails and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Add some of the thyme butter on top and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.
When the risotto is cooked (this should be after approximately 15 minutes) add the sliced monkfish tail and stir once gently. Spoon into warmed shallow serving bowls and top with the remaining lemon thyme butter. Scatter with some fresh thyme leaves and serve.
From Lemons & Limes by Ursula Ferrigno (£9.99, Ryland, Peters & Small), out now
Photography: Clare Winfield; Ryland, Peters & Small
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.