Risotto with Butternut Squash and Sage in the Pressure Cooker
Appetizers,  Gluten-free,  Italian,  Main Dish,  Rice,  Vegetables

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Sage in the Pressure Cooker

As the days get shorter, keep the sun in your life with gleaming risotto lit with golden butternut squash. Plump little Arborio rice grains turn creamy yet keep a nice al dente chew. Swirled with sweet winter squash, it’s a comfort food to rival mac and cheese. The pressure cooker (or Instant Pot) cooks it up perfetto in just about 5 minutes, without any of the watching, stirring and all-around fussing that scare cooks away from risotto.

Fresh sage plays the hero here, propelling the savory flavors into the stratosphere. Dried sage can work, too, but fresh velvety leaves add the brightness of garden greens.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker or its equivalent, keep in mind that the stories of tomato sauce on the ceiling date back to older generations of this miraculous kitchen tool. Today’s models cook without incident. According to chef/author Maneet Chauhan, “a pressure cooker is a quintessential equipment in each and every Indian household”*—their secret to tender curries and dals in minutes rather than hours.

Lorna Sass, who wrote the popular Cooking Under Pressure in 1989, credited her mother for introducing her family to speed stews after bringing home a cooker from India. Sass, whose goal is to get “a pressure cooker into every American kitchen,” proselytized with several follow-up cookbooks. Her risotto recipe from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure inspired this recipephany.

So as Halloween approaches, please don’t let risotto scare you away. Quick-cook this up as an appetizer, side-dish or main course—and make everyone feel warm and cozy.

*From “Maneet Chauhan Loves Indian Street Food!” podcast, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio, September 10, 2021.

For more pressure-cooker miracles, see “Apple Butter, Pressure-Cooker Fast” and “9-Minute Creamy Rice Pudding in the Pressure Cooker.”

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Sage in the Pressure Cooker

Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course. 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 large finely chopped shallots, about ½ cup
  • 1 finely chopped onion, about 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, or ½ to 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice
  • 3½ cups water
  • Chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes or paste  
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese, or to taste
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley and/or additional sage for garnish
  1. Heat the oil or butter in the pressure cooker. Sauté the shallots and onions on medium heat until soft and sweet (about 7 minutes). Add the sage and rice, coating the rice with the oil or butter.

  2. Carefully stir in 3½ cups of water (watch out, it may spatter) and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, and stir in bouillon cubes or paste, about enough to flavor 2 cups of water. Stir in squash and wine or vermouth.

  3. Lock the lid in place and bring the cooker to high pressure over high heat. Lower the heat to just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Use a quick-release method to fully reduce pressure, then unlock and open lid.

  4. Stir the risotto. It should be creamy, with the rice tender and slightly chewy and the squash partially pureéd. Adjust the texture by adding a little water, and/or cooking a little more over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes.  

  5. Turn off heat. Stir in the Parmesan and/or Romano and pepper to taste. Adjust with salt or more bouillon, if needed. Serve garnished with minced fresh parsley and/or fresh sage.

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