It’s no secret how much I love risotto. But sometimes I want to indulge without feeling like I, well, overindulged. Sunday night I set out to make a more perfect risotto, or at least one I can eat and feel relatively guilt-free.

After a request from a fellow BC9-er for a butternut squash recipe (Thanks, Courtney!) I was inspired to create a vegan-friendly risotto, too. Surely there has to be a way to savor the creamy goodness without heavy cream and excess amounts of cheese, I thought.

Here’s what I came up with. The short grain brown rice takes a little more time and liquid than white Arborio rice, but the end result is definitely worth the effort. If you just can’t bear the thought of a cheese-less risotto, go ahead and add some parmesan at the end (confession: I did). You’ll still respect yourself in the morning, I promise.

Brown Rice Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash

1 1-1/2 lb. butternut squash
preferred seasoning for squash
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts mushroom (or whatever stock you prefer) plus 1 quart water
1 cup short grain brown rice
olive oil
½ c parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

For the squash:
Cut the squash into inch-sized cubes and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. After they come out, you can add seasoning of your choice. I used Caribbean Jerk seasoning with thyme, sugar, and red pepper, but you could use chile powder, brown sugar, or nutmeg—or just leave them plain.

For the risotto:
Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. While the onion is cooking, add the stock and water to a stockpot and bring to a low simmer. Add pepper and minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and allow it to toast for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine to the skillet and stir, allow the rice to soak it up a bit. Then begin adding the stock to the rice, 1-2 cups at a time. Make sure to stir regularly to help give the risotto its creamy consistency. When most of the stock is absorbed, add 1-2 more cups, repeating until you’ve used all the stock and the rice is tender.

Season with salt and pepper, stir in parmesan cheese, if desired, plate risotto and top with roasted squash.