Recipe: Herbed Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash & Sweet Peas

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There were a couple other things I wanted to post before the first recipe of 2012, but I made this last night and was so happy with the way it turned out that I just had to share it with you first.  And since it continues the unofficial PGEW tradition of starting off each new year with a quinoa recipe, this works out perfectly.

While we’ve had an incredibly dry winter thus far (and I’m the only person in California who’s happy about that; only because I don’t have a car and hate walking in the rain), it’s definitely been a cold winter.  And like most people, when that cold weather hits, I crave heartier, creamier, more comforting food.  The problem with that, however, is that most comfort food involves heavier, richer, less good-for-you ingredients in its preparation.  A difficult dilemma, indeed.

Fortunately, there are ways around this problem.  From pasta casseroles to traditional party food, I’ve found my own ways to keep the “comfort” part of comfort food, without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.  That’s why risotto is such a wonderful option.  While there are some recipes out there that are a bit heavy on the cheese, the beauty of risotto is that it gets its rich creaminess from the natural starches of the rice – not from heavy creams or sauces.

Quinoa offers similar results, with the added bonus of getting a healthy dose of protein in every bite.  It’s a great option for vegetarians & vegans, or for omnivores like me who participate in Meatless Mondays.  My first foray into risotto-making was actually with the fair mother grain (come to think of it, I have yet to make a proper risotto using rice; I need to fix that), and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.  Creamy but not mushy, and full of flavor and texture, with that fun little “pop” that only quinoa can give to a dish.

This time around, I kept things simple and just used some roasted butternut squash and sweet green peas for my risotto add-ins.  The sweetness of each vegetable complements the savory quinoa beautifully, keeping the dish nicely balanced.  While it’s a seasonal dish with respect to the butternut, you can easily make this year ’round by using frozen squash instead.  If your store doesn’t carry it, you can easily freeze your own to use whenever you want.

While I enjoyed it as a fabulous meatless entrée, this risotto will also make a lovely side dish to complement meats or other dishes at dinnertime.   Other than that, there’s not much else to note on this one!  Let’s check out the recipe…

Herbed Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash & Sweet Peas (makes 4-6 servings; total cost per serving: $1.35)

2 T olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 c diced yellow onion
1 c uncooked quinoa
1/2 c white wine*
4 c vegetable broth
1/4 c parmesan cheese (optional)
1 T herbes de provence
1/4 t dried sage
1 c roasted or sauteed butternut squash cubes
1 c frozen green peas, thawed
Salt & pepper to taste
1.  Carefully rinse the quinoa 2-3 times to ensure that it is completely clean and then drain well.   Heat a large skillet heat over medium heat and add the olive oil.  When oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook slowly until the onion begins to soften.  Add a generous pinch of salt and a bit of pepper and mix in.

2.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the rinsed quinoa. Cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine is absorbed completely.  Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of broth into the quinoa and allow to simmer until the quinoa has absorbed it all, stirring frequently. Continue this process, pouring in the broth only 1/2 cup at a time, until the quinoa is creamy and the quinoa germs have burst (you may have extra broth left over; if so, set aside for a different meal), about 20 minutes.

3.  While the last bit of broth has almost been absorbed, add the ¼ c of parmesan cheese (if you’re using it) and continue to stir well. Add the herbes de provence &  sage, then gently fold in the butternut squash and peas.  Serve by itself or as an accompaniment to meats or other meatless sides, and enjoy!

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11 Responses to "Recipe: Herbed Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash & Sweet Peas"

  1. Melissa Vanni says:

    I love anything with butternut squash! I’m sure my family would gobble this up.

  2. Jan says:

    Your blog posts are FABULOUS, and this recipe looks great — and fantastically timed. I bought a quinoa cookbook before the holidays and have been having so much fun with it, but risotto? Who knew??!?!?!?

  3. Mary says:

    Mmm, this looks amazing, and would use up a bunch of stuff I already have in my pantry.

  4. Eric Pelz says:

    I think this recipe sounds great…Simple yet Delicious I can’t wait to try! Thanks

  5. Yasmeen @ Wandering Spice says:

    What a wonderful idea to use quinoa for risotto. I will absolutely be trying this out, as we have a giant tub of organic quinoa begging to be used in a different way :)

  6. Helene says:

    Im not very good at substitutions but I really want to try this. Can someone tell me what I can use instead of white wine?

  7. Torey says:

    Made this last night — forgot to add the herbs, but it was still super delicious! We used it as a side, so I have lots of leftovers (yay for healthy lunches this week!). I threw some extra roasted squash cubes in a wrap with turkey, goat cheese, spinach and a little mayo for a scrumptious sandwich tonight, too.

  8. allie says:

    ohhhhh my goodness. I made a couple substitutions from what was already in my fridge: fresh tarragon vs. herbes de provence, and goat cheese vs. parmesan. so amazing!!

  9. Mike says:

    Just made and ate this and it was fantastic! We used acorn squash and added some Crimini mushrooms (sauteed separately, then added in with the squash. Great success!

  10. Alicia Bogart says:

    I love this. About to make it for probably the 4th time!! I tried adding nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute, but I did not like it.

    • Kimberly Morales says:

      I’ve never actually made the foray into nutritional yeast-land, so I’m not sure how it tastes at all. The beauty of risotto is that cheese is optional. It’s awesome if it’s in there, but it’s not really necessary, as it will be creamy enough on its own.


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