Pumpkin Risotto is super creamy and lovely. The pumpkin adds subtle flavor that doesn’t overpower but adds wonderful texture. Lots of Parmesan cheese and crispy sage leaves create a punch of earthy, comforting flavor.
Risotto is the king of comfort food and this Pumpkin Risotto brings all the royalty of fall flavors into one delicious bowl. My Mushroom Risotto Tutorial and Mushroom Risotto in the Instant Pot recipes are two of the most popular recipes on Good Dinner Mom, so comfort food recipes abound here. I’ve made Mushroom Risotto for friends who were hurting, grieving, recovering from surgery, or just hungry for comfort food, and they’ve all told me how much the warm creamy risotto was just what they were craving. So, I’m happy to add Pumpkin Risotto to the “healing food” lineup.
Risotto isn’t just rice in a bowl; and the type of rice used in the recipe is key-
Which rice is best when making risotto?
There are two main types of rice commonly used when making risotto. Arborio and Carnaroli are the two standard types of rice most commonly used. Both types are short-grained which produce a creamy risotto due to the high starch content and ability to absorb liquid more slowly. I’ve used both types of rice when making risotto and though Carnaroli is supposed to be the best of the best, I’ve been equally satisfied with Arborio- so use what you can easily find. I’ve used short-grain brown rice a time or two for extra healthy cooking and as long as it’s labeled as “short grain” you should be pretty happy with the brown rice version. It isn’t quite as creamy in results but the nutty flavor of the brown rice is a nice option.
What type of pumpkin is used for Pumpkin Risotto?
The best type of pumpkin for Pumpkin Risotto is pie pumpkin which is the smaller type of pumpkin found in the produce section in the fall and early winter (not Jack O’ Lantern-type). Even though this type of pumpkin is only available in fall and part of winter in stores, pumpkin or any squash, in general, keeps for about three months after purchased if you store them in a dark, cool place. You can also use Japanese Kabocha (green) squash that is found frequently year round. In a pinch, butternut squash can also be used. Just note that the butternut doesn’t cream or dissolve as well as the pumpkin or Kabocha so grating the butternut is helpful to ensure that it breaks down into the risotto.
What other ingredients go into making Pumpkin Risotto special?
Pumpkin Risotto is a classic risotto in its use of ingredients like white wine, shallots or onions, and Fresh Parmesan cheese. Speaking of the cheese, Parmesan is the most likely ingredient here. But I really love Pecorino Romano, which grates just like Parmesan but is a bit sharper and more salty than regular Parmesan. Pecorino is made with sheep’s milk instead of cow milk, and the sharp, tangy flavor is fabulous, which equals more flavor. Whichever cheese you use, buy the best that you can afford.
What’s the best type of white wine to use in Risotto?
Speaking of important ingredients for risotto, white wine absorbed into the rice at the beginning also enhances the complexity of this dish. Any dry and crisp white wine is a good option- nothing too sweet. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, or good Marsala wine are all excellent choices. Although the wine really adds depth to risotto flavors, if you’re not someone who cooks with wine, you can substitute half white wine vinegar and half water for the amount of wine called for in the recipe.
Adding crisp sage leaves to Pumpkin Risotto-
Pan frying some fresh sage leaves until crisp will add an earthy, slightly peppery and even eucalyptus kind of flavor to the Pumpkin Risotto. Some of my taste testers loved the whole leaves placed on top of the risotto and also liked eating them alone to enjoy the punch of herby-lemony flavor. But most loved having the leaves crushed on top to experience just a hint of sage flavor throughout the entire risotto.
What to serve with risotto-
Risotto is an excellent comfort side dish served alongside chicken, salmon, scallops, and shrimp. But risotto is often the perfect meatless main dish on a menu. The risottos on my site are vegetarian, but I’ve experimented with the mushroom risotto and left out the cheese and butter many times- it makes a delicious vegan option.
There you have it- I hope you try Pumpkin Risotto very soon in your All-The-Pumpkin-Foods lineup. If pumpkin is not your thing or you’ve OD’d enough on pumpkin for the season, be sure to try my other Mushroom Risotto recipes here, I think you’ll be glad you did.
Fried sage leaves and pumpkin seeds for topping, if using
- 1 tbsp butter
- 16 fresh sage leaves more or less, depending on how many you want
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds pepitas
Make the pumpkin risotto
- 6 cups Chicken broth you might not use it all
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large shallots minced, about 1/2 cup total
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine see notes for best wine substitutions
- ½ pound fresh pumpkin seeds and fibers removed, peeled and grated (about 1 cup). See notes for types of squash you can use if pie pumpkin is not available. Do not use Jack O'Lantern pumpkin.
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 2 tsp sea salt more or less to taste
- ½ tsp ground black pepper freshly ground
- 1 cup Parmesan grated, plus more for serving
Make the fried sage leaves and pan roasted pumpkin seeds
- Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat in a medium skillet. Add the sage leaves and fry for a couple of minutes until crisp, turning with tongs or a fork as needed to crisp both sides. The leaves will darken quite a bit but don't let the butter smoke or the leaves turn black. Once all the leaves are crisp, remove them to a paper towel to cool. Set aside to use when serving the risotto.
- Add the one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Add the ¼ cup pumpkin seeds and stir to cover with oil. Continue to cook until the seeds plump up and darken a bit. (These are great to snack on so I always double or triple the seeds and olive oil for this step and save extras to snack or sprinkle on salads.) Transfer the seeds to a separate paper towel and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let cool to use when serving the risotto.
Make the risotto
- Heat the 6 cups of chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep very warm while making the risotto.
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the ½ cup (more or less) of shallots and cook for about one minute until the shallots have softened. Add the 1 cup Arborio rice to the pan and stir until covered with the olive oil that was already in the pan and the rice is a little shiny. Cook the rice and shallots for about two minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice becomes a little translucent. Add the ½ white wine and the grated pumpkin. Cook, stirring continually, until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Turn the burner up to medium-high heat and ladle about 1 cup of the chicken broth. The broth should bubble and will start to evaporate. Stir occasionally, almost constantly. Continue ladling the broth, stirring, and cooking until only about 1 ½ cups of the broth is left in the saucepan where you heated it. This will take about 20 minutes. Taste the rice to make sure it's al dente but not hard. If needed, continue to cook the risotto a few more minutes to achieve the softness desired, adding ½ cup more chicken broth if needed.
- If the pumpkin hasn't absorbed into the rice so you barely see chunks of the pumpkin, give the risotto/pumpkin mixture one vigorous stir until the pumpkin is as dissolved as you'd like.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 teaspoons of salt to the risotto and stir it in. Add the 1 cup Parmesan cheese and stir until melted and stringy/creamy.
- The Pumpkin Risotto should be very loose and creamy. If desired, add more chicken broth until the risotto reaches the level you want.
Serving the Pumpkin Risotto
- Serve the Pumpkin Risotto immediately, topping each serving with 3 or 4 sage leaves (you can leave them whole or crumble them over the risotto). Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, and roasted pumpkin seeds, as desired. Add more fresh ground pepper, as well.
- If you can't find baking pumpkins, called pie pumpkins, you can substitute butternut squash in the recipe. The butternut doesn't break down as much as the pumpkin but will still taste fabulous. You can also use a green Japanese Kabocha squash that is available all year round in some stores. If the Kabocha is available, that would be my first choice for pumpkin substitution. Jack O'Lantern pumpkins are not a good substitution as they're very fibrous.
- Arborio is the best rice to use in most risottos. Carnaroli is professed to be the king of risotto rice. I've used both and don't notice a difference, so buy what's available and budget-friendly. You can use short grain brown rice (any short grain rice is acceptable), the brown rice might take longer to soften and will impart a more nutty flavor to the recipe, and that's not a bad thing!
- If you don't want to use wine in the risotto you can substitute half water and half white wine vinegar or half water and half apple cider vinegar, so 1/4 cup of each.