Butternut squash -- a member of the cucurbitaceae family, which includes gourds and melons -- is native to the Western Hemisphere and most likely originated in Mexico. Once called "the apple of God," the butternut squash was prized by American Indians, who believed its seeds increased fertility.
Although this pear-shaped vegetable, also known as winter squash, didn't debut on the consumer market until 1944, it made a big impression, working its way into soups and casseroles throughout the world. It has a sweet, nutty taste and is almost indistinguishable from pumpkin -- probably why Australians refer to it as “butternut pumpkin” -- and can be substituted in most recipes that call for pumpkin.
But this versatile veggie is packed with more than just taste possibilities; it's also loaded with vitamin A -- 1 cup of cooked squash has 457% of the recommended daily allowance -- and is a good source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. And like most vegetables, it's fat-, cholesterol-, and sodium-free.
Butternut Squash Risotto With Mushrooms
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and
cubed (about 3 cups)
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onions
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
1¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp black pepper
1 to 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
or fresh sage (or both)
1. Preheat oven to 475˚F. Place squash on jellyroll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast squash until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Keep warm.
2. Heat chicken broth in a large pot on low, keeping liquid at a simmer throughout the cooking process.
3. In a heavy-bottom pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Add rice and stir to combine. Gradually add chicken broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed and risotto is soft, about 30 minutes.
5. Sauté mushrooms over medium heat in a large skillet coated with cooking spray, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
6. When the risotto is soft, stir in squash, mushrooms, cheese, butter, salt, pepper, parsley, and sage.