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An easy butternut squash risotto that bakes in the oven and doesn’t require constant stirring like a classic Italian-style risotto. This one-dish dinner recipe is strewn with smoky chunks of crisp bacon, roasted butternut squash cubes, and leafy green kale combined with cheesy short grain rice. Relax with a glass of wine while it cooks!
Risotto is a great solution when it comes to simple dinner recipes. And it’s so versatile! Whether you want to make a vegetarian risotto with asparagus, or something more classic, the base of creamy, buttery, cheesy rice is ultra satisfying.
“My partner took one bite and said, OMG this is so good!”
While this risotto has all the flavor and wonderful texture of a the usual stovetop-cooked one, all the components cook in the oven at the same time.
Chunks of sweet butternut squash and sliced bacon roast on a sheet pan, while the rice bakes at the same time on another rack. Combine the two and risotto is served!
About the ingredients
- Arborio rice: Although “risotto-style” recipes can be made with other grains — like my farro risotto recipe and pearl barley risotto — classic risotto is an Italian dish made with a special type of short-grain white rice. See below for the best types of rice to use for making risotto.
- Butternut squash: Make this whole meal come together even faster if you use peeled and cubed squash. You can often find it in the produce section or freezer aisle of your grocery store.
- Greens: I love the deep green color and crinkled texture of kale, especially in a Tuscan kale salad. You can use any variety you like, or use spinach instead.
- Bacon: Use any thick-sliced unsmoked bacon or lightly smoked bacon. I prefer an applewood smoked bacon. For a vegetarian risotto, omit the bacon (see the recipe notes)
- Parmesan cheese: This hard cheese is key! It’s full of umami flavor. Parmesan pairs beautifully with butternut squash.
- White wine: Use 1/4 cup dry white — pinot grigio or a dry rose is perfect.
- Broth: Use homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth.
- Butter and olive oil
Butternut squash risotto prep steps
- Start by adjusting your oven racks so that one is in the middle and one below it. The butternut squash and bacon roast together on a sheet pan, while the rice cooks in an ovenproof pan — both at the same time.
- Unlike stovetop risotto that cooks in stages until each addition of liquid is absorbed, you’ll see some broth in the bottom pan when the baked rice is done, which is what you want.
- Once everything gets stirred in to blend and the rice absorbs the stock, it becomes the perfect texture.
Types of rice for risotto
Authentic Italian arborio is a variety of short grain rice, naturally gluten-free. Other cultivars include carnaroli and vialone nano. They all have in common a plump, rounded grain and starchy coating.
You can make this oven risotto with these other types of short grain white rices, just be sure not to rinse them — the starch coating is key to a creamy texture. Washing the rice eliminates the starch on the grains, which is really the magical part of the dish.
Baked Butternut Squash Risotto (Extra-Easy, No-Stir!)
- 4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash, (fresh or frozen) cut into 1-inch chunks
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces (170 g) thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces (I recommend applewood-smoked)
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped shallot, or yellow onion
- 1 cup (190 g) arborio rice
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
- 4 cups (1 l) chicken broth, or vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 small Parmesan cheese rind, optional
- 4 cups chopped kale, or spinach
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Position one oven rack in the center and another rack under it. Preheat oven to 400 (200C) degrees.
- Arrange the squash in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet (you can line with parchment for easier clean up). Sprinkle lightly with salt and grind black pepper over to taste. Scatter the bacon evenly over the squash.
- Place a large oven-proof saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, stir in the shallot or onion. Cook until it's softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice to coat it in the fat, and cook another minute or two, until you hear it start to crackle.
- Pour in the wine and let it bubble for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Add the stock, thyme, and Parmesan rind (if you have one) and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir gently.
- Slide the sheet pan on the lower rack of the oven. Carefully set the saute pan on the middle rack (it may be full of liquid). Bake the squash 30-35 minutes, or until it's tender and the bacon is rendered and crisp. Bake the rice about the same amount of time. When it's done, the surface of the rice will look firm. The rice should be tender, with a little bit of liquid unabsorbed at the bottom of the pan.
- Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the squash and bacon to the risotto pan, leaving the excess fat behind. Add the kale and cheese stir them in gently until everything is evenly mixed and the kale becomes wilted.
- Serve hot, with additional cheese for each serving.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Take this dish up a notch with this cheffy touch: Drizzle the risotto with good balsamic vinegar and a pinch of crushed red chili flakes before serving.
- To make this vegetarian, skip the bacon. Toss the squash with 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil along with the salt and pepper before roasting.