Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Grains, Peter Berley, Starches)

I normally get nervous when I see risottos which call for grains other than rice.  I avoid barley risotto like the plague. But this recipe in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley has quinoa and arborio rice, so I figured it was safe to risk it. This dish doesn’t quite taste like a traditional risotto.  The quinoa adds a slightly herbaceous note, which melds well with the other flavors.  Plus it’s vegan, and more nutritious than traditional risotto. 


  • 4 cups water or broth made from squash and leek trimmings
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leek (white part only) (I used the light green part as well, from 1 leek)
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1/2 inch pieces) (from a 3/4 – 1 pound squash?)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. mirin  (maybe more?  or white wine?)
  • 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish


  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  2. In a heavy 3-quart pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. oil, add the leek, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Add the rice and quinoa and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin and sage and cook until dry.  Ladle in the water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup of water.  Continue stirring until the grains are tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

Yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.

My Notes:

I’ve made this recipe twice now and I really liked it both times.  It’s almost perfect, except it needs way more sage.  I added more sage with the mirin (about a Tbs.?), and then add the end rather than garnishing with parsley I sprinkled on lots more chopped fresh sage (maybe about 3 Tbs?).  I think it makes more than 2 main-dish servings. Rating: B+

Note October 12, 2009:  Last night Derek made a combination of this recipe and the butternut squash risotto recipe from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook.  He started with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. butter, then added ~4 cups  1/2-inch diced squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces I think) and let it cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until it looked like it was starting to soften.  Then he added about 3/4 cup each of arborio rice and quinoa.  When fragrant he added a 1/3-1/2 cup of white wine and ~2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves.  He added about 6 cups of salted vegetable stock slowly, stirring frequently.  At the end he beat in 1 Tbs. of butter, about 2 ounces of parmigiano-reggiano, and another 1-2 Tbs. of fresh, chopped sage leaves, and seasoned to taste.  It was delicious.  I think I liked it with the extra quinoa, and without the leeks, even more than the original version.   Certainly all the animal fat made it taste very good.  I think the absence of leeks gave it a purer squash flavor.  Rating: A-.  Derek rating: A-/B+.  He says it’s very tasty but not quite interesting enough to be A-.  I think the the quinoa flavor makes it interesting enough to make it an A-.

Note October 2008: Last night I tried the butternut squash and sage risotto recipe in Jack Bishop’s cookbook.  It was tasty but neither the squash nor the sage flavors were very strong, even after I added substantially more sage.  I actually prefer the version above with quinoa and leek.  They create a deeper flavor profile that I prefer to the standard risotto recipe.  Bishop suggests garnishing the risotto with fried sage leaves.  I tried to fry some up, but again they didn’t come out right.  They were crispy but lost almost all the sage flavor.  What am I doing wrong?


  1. Mediocre Chocolate said,

    This sounds excellent. I love that you’ve combined the two grains for the best of both worlds. Will definitely try it.

  2. captious said,

    Well, it was Peter Berley’s idea to combine the two grains, not mine. But I do appreciate the combination.

  3. Quinoa and winter squash potage « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] squash and quinoa have a natural affinity for each other.  (See also Berley’s recipe for butternut squash and quinoa risotto.) And the soup has a lovely texture—the mashed squash contrasts nicely with the soft quinoa […]

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