This Baked Pumpkin Risotto is an accidental discovery and unlike other baked risottos, it is creamy rather than sticky and starchy. The secret is the pumpkin which is baked with the risotto, then when stirred it becomes a puree, effectively becoming the sauce for the risotto. And it’s only 360 calories per serving!
I am yet to meet a person that doesn’t love risotto. And I really would make it more often if I didn’t have to stand over a hot stove stirring and adding stock bit by bit for 40 minutes. It’s not hard. It’s just time consuming!
When I first came across a baked risotto a decade or so ago, I was dubious. “Ew”, I thought. “It’ll be mushy and gluggy. And horribly sticky I bet.” But curiosity got the better of me so I gave it a go – a chicken, bacon and pea baked risotto. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was edible but I was right, it was quite sticky rather than smooth and creamy. Light years away from the “proper” risotto.
I wouldn’t have spared another thought for it if I hadn’t been experimenting one day with a rice soup that had pumpkin in it (amongst other things). I left it on the stove too long and when I rushed back to it, pretty much all the liquid had been absorbed and it was “risotto” like (though I wasn’t using arborio rice, just normal rice). I stirred it forlornly, sighing and thinking that I’d have to eat that sad mess or make do with instant noodles. As I was stirring it, the pumpkin literally fell apart and blended into what was left off the liquid, turning it a bright cheery orange.
Unfortunately that night I did end up making instant noodles as the bottom of the rice was horribly burnt and stuck to the base of the pot. But it was the catalyst for the idea of trying a baked risotto using pumpkin.
The reason this baked risotto is so different from others is because of the pumpkin. By cutting it into bite size pieces and cooking it in the oven with the rice, it becomes so soft that when you stir the risotto, it literally disintegrates and becomes a puree, blending into the risotto.
Having the pumpkin “puree” in the risotto disguises the stickiness that you otherwise get from the liquid in baked risottos. You can’t achieve this same effect by using pumpkin soup (I tried it once, it was terrible), you need to use fresh pumpkin, cook it with the risotto and stir it in at the end.
The risotto rice is still on the soft side. You won’t be able to achieve the perfect al dente rice that you get in restaurant quality risottos when you use the baking method. However, if you bake it for the correct length of time, the rice will not be overcooked to the point of mushy. I’ve provided fairly detailed notes on how long to bake it for, and how to tell it is ready to come out of the oven. The baking time is impacted by the accuracy of your oven heat, as well as what you are cooking the rice in. For example, a heavy cast iron pot retains much more heat than a lightweight pot so it will cook faster.
I used sage in this, because pumpkin and sage are great mates. But the flavour is very subtle and you can substitute it with parsley, oregano or thyme, or just omit it.
This really is a great midweek meal, it honestly only takes 15 minutes to prepare before popping into the oven. Sometimes I add chicken and spinach into it to make it a more complete meal (I’ve included directions for this in the recipe). And can you believe it’s only 360 calories per serving?? The secret is the pumpkin – it adds volume with far less calories compared to using more rice so there’s only 1 1/2 cups of rice and it will serve 6 people.
A great idea for leftovers is making Arancini Balls – they freeze great too!
I’d love to hear if you give this a go! You can contact me here or leave a comment below!
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (risotto rice)
- 1 brown onion , diced
- 600 g / 20 oz pumpkin , diced into 1.5cm/0.5" cubes (about 4 heaped cups)
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional - but see notes)
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock/broth
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 12 sage leaves (see notes)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Black pepper
- Grated parmesan
- Finely chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Heat olive oil in ovenproof pot (preferably with a lid) over medium high heat.
Add garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent.
Add sage leaves and cook for 1 minute.
Add rice and stir so all the rice grains are coated with the olive oil.
Add white wine and cook until the the liquid evaporates - about 1 minute.
Add pumpkin and stock, and bring to boil.
Put lid on (or cover tightly with foil) and place in oven for 25 to 35 minutes. See notes for baking time.
Check it at 20 minutes. The risotto is ready to come out of the oven when the rice is cooked - ideally, the rice should be a bit firm on the inside (ie. al dente), but it is very difficult to achieve that using the baking method, more likely it will be on the soft side. The rice should be very wet like porridge, not dry like a pilaff. Don't worry if there is excess liquid, it will evaporate in the next step when you stir it.
Add butter and parmesan cheese. Add more if you want - the more you add, the creamier the risotto will be.
Gently stir the risotto so that the pumpkin turns into a puree and blends into the risotto. If it's too thick then add a splash of boiled water (it means it was left in the oven for a bit too long).
Add salt and pepper to taste. (see notes)
Serve, garnished with parsley and extra parmesan if desired.
1. Sage goes very well with pumpkin, but it is a very subtle flavour in this dish so don't worry if you don't have it. If you have parsley, thyme or oregano, these will be a good substitute.
2. It is important to remember to season at the very end and not at the beginning as you never really know how strong the salt from the stock/broth is once absorbed into the rice.
3. Even though there is only 1 1/2 cups of rice, this makes a lot (because of the 3 cups of pumpkin). It will feed 4 hungry people or 6 normal servings.
4. Turn this into a complete meal by adding chicken and spinach (shredded). Add the chicken when the onion is translucent and cook until white. Then follow the directions of the recipe. When you stir the butter and parmesan into the cooked risotto, add the spinach as well - you can add as much spinach as you want, but 3 packed cups is ideal. The residual heat from the risotto will wilt it quickly. You may need to add a splash of water to loosen it up a bit.
5. In my household there is inevitably an open bottle of white wine somewhere in the fridge at all times. But for those that don't, a great tip is to freeze leftover white wine in little ziplock bags. Perfect for cooking with!
6. Baking time - if you are using a heavy cast iron casserole pot with a lid, then it will be closer to 20 - 25 minutes because it retains heat so well. If you are using a lighter weight pot covered with foil, then it will take closer to 35 to 40 minutes.
7. Wine is optional. If you don't use wine then you will need to add 1/4 cup of water or stock.
8. Veganise it by omitting the parmesan (check the salt level by taste) and using vegetable rather than chicken stock.