Easier than you think, this creamy, savory mushroom and pumpkin risotto is a delicious weeknight dinner that tastes way fancier than it is to cook.
Have you ever felt like there’s something you can’t accomplish? That it’s beyond your ability, and you don’t even bother to try? The older I get, the more I realize I have no idea why I feel that way. Some things in life only appear more complicated than they are, and once you give them a chance, you learn that you had it all wrong.
That’s how I feel about risotto, the creamy Italian rice dish. It has a reputation as a complex food that’s almost too fancy to cook at home. I don’t think either of those beliefs is accurate. As with my first time canning, I was overly nervous and overprepared the first time I made risotto. And by the time I finished cooking, I had thought I must have made it wrong because it didn’t take as much effort or time as I had assumed.
I was wrong. After finding that I could make a delicious risotto, and it wasn’t nearly as complex or intensive as people often claimed, I added it to my list of quick weeknight meals. If you’ve never bothered to cook risotto at home, now’s the time to give it a chance. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy, tasty, and successful you can be with it.
🍄 Key Ingredients
Risotto is one of those dishes you can flavor in countless ways. It can include such ingredients as seafood, sausage, vegetables, chicken, herbs, and/or cheese. I find it incredibly versatile because you can change it up for the season or the ingredients you have in your fridge. The recipe I’m sharing today is a pumpkin and mushroom risotto, which makes for a warming and comforting meal during these late fall and early winter days.
The main ingredients in this risotto include:
- pumpkin puree
- vegetable broth
- Parmesan cheese
- fresh sage leaves
- Arborio rice
What kind of mushrooms, you ask? Well, I think whatever kind you like is fine. I like to use small mushrooms that are easy to slice, such as baby Bella. But white button mushrooms are just fine.
Nutmeg? Yeah, you read that right. I love to add nutmeg to savory pumpkin and winter squash dishes. It adds a hint of flavor that keeps things interesting.
While not difficult, there are a few things you need to know about how to cook not just this mushroom and pumpkin risotto successfully, but really any risotto. And first, that’s starting with the right kind of rice. I’ve made risotto with different grains, such as barley, and different varieties of rice, including long-grain brown. But the best and most commonly used risotto rice is Arborio, and that’s for a good reason.
It’s a short, plump variety of rice that has a lot of starch to it. That starch is necessary because it breaks down and creates the essential creaminess of a risotto. If you’ve never bought Arborio rice before, don’t worry, it is commonly found in grocery stores and is not expensive.
Risotto has a reputation of being labor-intensive because it requires your attention and some stirring. No, it’s not something you can leave in a pot to cook on its own, but 20 or so minutes of my attention and some stirring is not any more labor-intensive than cooking most other meals.
You can also pass along the task of stirring to your significant other or even a competent child. My wife, for one, loves an opportunity to stir. Or maybe she actually wants to sneak a taste. Fine with me.
As you stir the pot of mushroom and pumpkin risotto, the only other task to manage is to keep adding a little broth to the pot, about half a ladle full at a time. The broth, which you keep hot in a small pot next to the risotto, is slowly absorbed into the rice as it cooks.
If you can stir and add broth to a pan, the only other thing you need to make risotto is a little patience. I know not everyone has it, but maybe this is an excellent opportunity to develop that skill, too.
💭 Top Tips
- Do you usually rinse your rice before cooking? Well this mushroom and pumpkin risotto isn't once of those instances where you should. When you rinse rice you're washing away the starch and you need the starch here to create the creaminess.
- Sorry, but I just have to reiterate that you shouldn't wander away while the risotto cooks. You need to keep stirring. The liquid can dry up in no time and the rice will quickly stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Adding hot broth to the pan helps to reduce the cooking time, so don't skip heating up the broth and pumpkin puree. It's not just for fun.
📋 Substitutions & Variations
Wine: You can replace the wine with a mild hard cider or simply use additional vegetable broth and a splash of lemon juice for a little acid. I could also see a mild beer working well, too. Let me know if you give that a try.
Pumpkin: This recipe would work great with other kinds of winter squash puree, such as butternut, honey nut, or blue Hubbard.
Rice: Even though I think Arborio rice is the best option for risotto, here are some alternatives.