Risotto is a traditional northern Italian dish that makes use of the staples of that region’s cooking. Because many of the foods we enjoy at our favorite Italian restaurants hail from Southern Italy, such as pastas with red sauce and seafood dishes, we tend to forget that in northern Italy, home chefs cook with very different ingredients. A starchy variety of rice is used in risotto, and is just as popular in the north as spaghetti is in the south. We use Vialone Nano in our risotto, but you can substitute Arborio rice or Carnaroli rice if those are more easier found at your local grocery.
Another popular ingredient in northern Italian cooking is, surprisingly, butter! Instead of using the traditional butter in our risotto, we take a hint from the heart healthy chefs of southern Italy, and use mainly extra virgin olive oil in our healthy risotto, with only a dab of butter. We make a variety of healthy substitutions in this recipe, including low sodium vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and entirely Parmesan cheese, which has a high protein content, and lacks the heavy fats of some cheeses popularly used in risotto.
The star of this healthy risotto recipe is butternut squash. Its mild flavor pairs perfectly with white wine, Parmesan, and onion, and makes for a healthy dish that’s brimming with carotenoids and vitamin A, as well as dietary fiber. Choose this risotto for your next weeknight dinner or family get-together, and enjoy the rich flavors of northern Italy.
Yields: 8 servings | Serving Size: 1-1/4 cup risotto | Calories: 289 | Total Fat: 8 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 10 mg | Sodium: 175 mg | Carbohydrates: 44 g | Dietary Fiber: 2 g | Sugars: 3 g | Protein: 8 g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 9
- 1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups Vialone Nano rice (or any type of rice that's good for risotto like Arborio)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 cups small-diced butternut squash or acorn squash ( find out how to peel and seed squash here)
- 4 cups hot vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional) organic, grass-fed preferred
- 1/2 cup (more or less, depending on your taste) grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Over medium heat, in a thick-bottomed saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, sautè the onions. When the onions start to color, add the rice. Toast for 3 minutes, moving frequently to avoid burning.
- Pour the wine and let the alcohol evaporate for about 3 minutes.
- Add the squash and half of the broth.
- Over low - medium heat, keep on adding the broth gradually, making sure that the risotto doesn't dry up. It should cook in about 17 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- When the risotto is cooked, with a creamy consistency, turn off the fire.
- Add the butter, Parmigiano Reggiano (adjust the amount according to how you like it) and parsley.
- Serve immediately.
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