winter squash risotto

For your valentine: winter squash risotto

Light those candles, dim the lights and make this for your valentine: winter squash risotto. I don’t have a link here, because this is sort of a U Street Girl original. Not that I’ve invented risotto, but this is the way I make it, I’ve played around and this is what works for me.

Risotto, to me, is perfect food to cook for a special occasion. It’s very tasty, luxurious, but also homey and relatively simple to make. Plus, once you’ve mastered the base recipe, you can add whatever you want: shrimp, asparagus, broccoli, chicken, pesto, etc etc. It just requires your full attention for a half hour. Plus, this version is sort of vegetarian, if you want to use veggie stock. Where the hell else can you get a gourmet Valentine’s day meal for less than $10?

Budget: $7, makes 4 servings so $1.75 a serving. I know you’re only serving two so you could cut in half and then it’s only $3.50, but I like having the leftovers.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil (pantry)
  • .5 onion, chopped (pantry)
  • a few cloves of garlic, minced (pantry)
  • 1 cup dry arborio rice – you have to use risotto/arborio rice, don’t use anything else, it won’t work ($4.50 for 2lbs, $.90 for serving)

    Risotto cooking

    Risotto cooking

  • .5 cup white wine ($6.50 for Yellowtail  Pinot Grigio – about $1 for serving)
  • 2-3 cups of chicken stock ($2 for 4 cups with my VIC card, $1 to $1.50 for serving)
  • 1 cup pureed winter squash of your choice- I had kabocha in the fridge (about $1.70 per pound for winter squash)
  • 1 bunch fresh sage – or other fresh herb of your choice ($2 for .75 ounce, about $.50 for serving)
  • .5 cup parmesan cheese (about $3.50 for 6 oz,  about $1.15 for .5 cup/2oz)
  • 1 tbsp butter (pantry)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (pantry)

Total: $6.75. I want you to beat that for a romantic gourmet meal for two (or four, really).


  • The day before, or an hour before, heat up your oven to 450, chop up your winter squash and season it with salt and pepper, coat with olive oil and put in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until squash is soft and cooked. Then, let cool, peel off skin, and puree or mash in a food processor or with a masher. Or, chop it up if you want to eat it in chunks.
  • Pour chicken stock into a stock pot and heat. It’s going to completely vary as to how much stock you’re going to need, so start with 2 cups and add more if you need.
  • Chop up onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in large saute pan and add onions and garlic. Saute until soft and translucent, but not browned.
  • Add arborio rice to the pan, and let it toast for a minute or so. Then, add your white wine, stir until all of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Now, the chicken stock, add the heated stock a ladle at a time (you have to add it ladle at a time, this is how you make risotto, it will be worth it, don’t cheat). Continue to stir rather continuously until liquid is absorbed. Repeat until risotto plumps, and goes from raw to cooked. This will generally take 20-30 minutes and 2-3 cups of chicken stock. It’s different every time, so you just have to taste and pay attention.
    • Note: Some Italian grandmothers probably swear on stirring their risotto with the same ancient wooden spoon. I won’t tell if you don’t use a wooden spoon, but I’d recommend it for authenticity’s sake.
  • Right before risotto becomes cooked, add pureed winter squash and chopped sage leaves, stir to combine.

    Almost ready to eat!

    Almost ready to eat!

  • When risotto is cooked to your desired doneness (some like it al dente, some like it mushy) add butter (indulge, it’s Valentine’s day!) and parmesan cheese. Stir till melted.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with some salad or just on it’s own. Risotto is a pretty hearty dish and I sometimes like to just have it on its own.

Add risotto to your repertoire and you’ll have a great, impressive dish you can make for cheap. Perhaps serve with some sparkling wine and a great dessert and you’ve greatly impressed your valentine.