Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto

When Harry was born, I was really active on a women’s message board, the outgrowth of an indie wedding-planning board for those of us who’d graduated into married life and, many of us hoped, children. When I got pregnant our first month trying, these women were there to marvel at my late-in-life fertility—and when I started spotting and was put on bedrest, they were my only company while Stephen was at work. They supported me through my miscarriage in a way that most of my real-life friends couldn’t, since so many of these women had experienced it themselves. And when our attempts to conceive dragged on, and on, and on, they were there to endure my bitter rants—and contribute rants of their own, as needed. They were the first people I told, after Stephen, when I finally got a positive pee stick (even before my mother, I think), and the women I went through pregnancy with are now among my closest friends.

Once we all had our babies, though, there came the little matter of feeding ourselves. I can’t remember anymore who first mentioned a slow cooker, but within the first few weeks of Harry’s life I went from a total naysayer to a major proponent of the gadget. Slow cookers were something of a religion among the new mothers on the board, with recipes posted and traded freely. This was where I first read about Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, which has inspired several of my favorite slow cooker recipes. And it’s where I found this recipe, which is Nap-Time Cooking at its finest.

Slow cooker risotto is 100% inauthentic, for sure. But the end result is close enough for me—close enough for any harried parent, I’d say. This is one comforting, filling, and healthy dinner, and it only takes about fifteen minutes of work. Do it while junior takes an afternoon nap, and you’ll be golden come dinnertime.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
1cup arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine [I use Vermouth]
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups peeled, seeded, and ½” cubed butternut squash
½ cup frozen peas—do not defrost
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons softened butter
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then sauté the shallots. When they’ve softened (3-5 minutes), add the rice and cook for a minute or two, stirring to coat each grain with oil, until the rice makes a clacking sound, like beads. Add the wine or Vermouth and cook until almost completely absorbed, another 5-6 minutes. Scrape contents of skillet into the slow cooker. Add the broth and cubed squash, stir, cover, and cook on high for 2-2 ½ hours.

Check at around the 2-hour mark; when it’s done the liquid will be mostly—but not completely—absorbed and the rice will be al dente. I usually stir at this point to break up the squash. When risotto is just about done, add the peas, stir, and recover pot for 5 minutes. Turn off the slow cooker and stir in the Parmesan and the butter, then season with salt & pepper.