Butternut Squash and Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

November 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

Fall is slowly arriving in Orlando. We’re always late to the fall game with our widely varying temperatures. The first signs of the season are usually the warm smell of cinnamon “brooms” and the autumn display of squash and pumpkins in the grocery store. When I think of fall, my mind jumps to squash, pumpkin, and sweet potato – ravioli, gnocchi, soup, and of course, risotto are must haves.

I picked up two types of squash on my last grocery run. The first was spaghetti squash which I’d never prepared and boy was it good – a little sun-dried tomato, spinach, and pine nuts and that’s as good as anything. The other was a butternut squash. While in New York, Luis had ordered butternut squash risotto at Candle 79 and I really wanted to try and re-create it. I picked up some mushrooms too to give it some more volume and decided to top it with fried shallots.


Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice. This particular variety has tons of starch lending to the creaminess of risotto. So why did I make mine with quinoa? Well, I wish I could say it’s my newfound healthiness but it wasn’t. The night I chose to make it, I opened the pantry and realized the bag I was sure I had was long gone. I did have quinoa though and have heard of it being used in place of rice in risotto or paella so figured I might as well give it a try. This won’t give you a creamy risotto, but it did work and created a much healthier dish.

Many recipes call for sautéing the squash stovetop but I decided to go ahead and just roast it to make it easier. Cutting it is a bit tricky. Best thing to do is cut both ends and then in half. Next, cut the peel off and then scoop out the interior.

Cut into cubes, toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a few dashes of nutmeg and into the oven for about 40 minutes until it’s nice and tender. This recipe only needs half the squash, I used the other half to make these stuffed shells.

To make the fried shallots, heat up some oil in a small pan and fry up the thinly sliced shallots. Watch them closely and turn frequently to avoid burning. A few of mine got too much heat but most of them turned out fine.

When the squash is almost done, saute the mushrooms with some oil, onion, garlic, and thyme and set aside. I used shitake which worked very nicely in this dish but you can use any mushroom you have on hand. The mushrooms cook up in no time and lend a beautiful earthiness to the dish. Meanwhile, heat up some vegetable stock to for the risotto.

Once the squash and mushrooms are done, rinse and toast the quinoa. Toasting the quinoa enhances its nutty flavor. Once toasted, add the wine. This is a traditional step for risotto. The grain picks up all the wine flavoring before adding any stock. Once the wine is absorbed, add almost all the stock the quinoa calls for, stirring the pan. Then, begin to add a little more, one ladle at a time until the quinoa reaches a risotto like consistency – your looking for a little liquid, not a soupy dish. Lastly, you may add in a tablespoon or two of vegan butter to give it a silky finish.

Add in the mushrooms and squash and serve warm with the fried shallots on top.

If you’ve never tried quinoa, this is a nice way to try it for the first time. The vegetable stock lends a nice flavor and still showcases the quinoa’s slight nutty flavor which works nicely with the squash and mushrooms.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
Serves 4 bowls


  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Small package shitake mushrooms sliced (or any other kind)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash nutmeg (optional)
  • dash thyme
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the ends off the squash and cut in half. Peel by cutting the outside layer off. On the bottom half cut in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds. Cut squash into cubes and put in a large baking dish. Toss with 2 tbsp oil, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of nutmeg (optional). Roast covered for 30-40 minutes until squash is tender.  Note: You only need half the squash for this recipe. You can cook it all together and have leftover squash for another dish or just cook half.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in small pan over medium heat and fry shallots, turning frequently. Set fried shallots aside.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large saute pan over medium heat and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add mushrooms, a few dashes of thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Once mushrooms are cooked and soft, transfer to dish and set aside.
  4. Heat vegetable stock in small pan and leave warm on the stove for risotto.
  5. Rinse quinoa and toast in pan over medium to medium-low heat. Once toasted, add wine and stir to allow quinoa to absorb all liquid. Add 2 cups stock and allow quinoa to absorb. Adjust heat as needed. Continue adding stock as quinoa absorbs liquid until you reach a risotto like consistency. Lastly add in 1 tbsp vegan butter.
  6. Mix quinoa with squash and mushrooms. Top with fried shallots and serve warm.

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