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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.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. marthaandme

    Interesting. I don't have a slow cooker, but this looks good.

  2. Peggy Bourjaily

    I don't have enough counter space for a slow cooker, but my brother in law swears by his. I'm going to convert the recipe back to the stovetop and see what happens – looks amazing.

  3. debbie koenig

    Martha & Peggy, I'll tell you what I tell my students who don't have slow cookers: Try it in the oven at the very lowest setting, in a tight-sealing Dutch oven. Since even the lowest setting on the oven is likely to be higher than a slow cooker, I'd check it 1/2 hour sooner. Should work fine, though, I think.

  4. Christina

    There is a similar, non-slow cooker recipe in this month's Bon Appetit. It has shrimp as well as butternut squash. Yum!

  5. Frugal Kiwi

    I love my slow cooker and have done various barley dishes in it, I've never done risotto. There is also a great site I check when using the slow cooker called 365 Crock Pot at has a zillion tested slow cooker recipe. Even one for soap!

  6. debbie koenig

    I saw that, Christina–funny coincidence!

    Frugal, I'm pretty sure there's a cookbook coming out from that web site.

  7. Sheryl Kraft

    I'm so mad at myself for giving away my slow cooker! Now I see a recipe like this…and I want it back.

  8. oh_snap!

    Totally making this on Saturday. Thanks again Debbie!

  9. Stephanie -

    What time should I be there? 🙂

  10. Alexandra Grabbe

    I used a slow cooker all the time in France and would like to get one here if someone could suggest a good brand. This recipe does sound amazing. Maybe I will try the Dutch oven version in the meantime.

  11. Jennifer Margulis

    Yum! But we don't have a slow cooker. Something I've always thought of getting — maybe from Goodwill?

  12. debbie koenig

    Sheryl, Alexandra, Jennifer: If you buy one, go cheap! My mom gave me a super-fancy one when Harry was born, and it runs too hot so I almost never use it. I bought a basic Rival one for $20 at Target, and it's a real workhorse.

  13. Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey

    Debbie, The risotto sounds wonderful!

  14. Kristin

    I tried to make this last week but didn't have many of the ingredients. But it worked anyway!!! I went with it based on all of your encouragement to improvise based on what's in your pantry and I ended up with a dish that was totally different but really good. I had the squash but no rice, so I used barley. I didn't have any wine so I just used extra broth. Instead of parm, I topped our portions with feta. It was really good! Thanks for a great recipe to start with, Debbie.

  15. debbie koenig

    That's awesome, Kristin! I'll have to try it with barley–that's one of my favorite grains and I often forget about it.

  16. Leah

    Debbie-this looks great! do you think i could use brown rice instead? what adjustments would i have to make?

  17. debbie koenig

    Leah, I often wonder about subbing brown rice for arborio when I make risotto, but I've never tried it. My understanding is that it isn't as starchy as arborio, so you won't get that lovely creaminess. But since Kristin had such great luck with barley, I'd say it's worth trying! You may need to add a bit more water, since brown rice generally takes more than white to cook fully, but otherwise I imagine it would be much the same. Perhaps a bit longer cooking time, too, but I'm not so sure about that.

  18. Tepary

    So, this serves 4? All the ingredients are here and I'm ready to go.

  19. MagnoliaSouth

    @Peggy: You don't have to have counter space to use a slow cooker. You can plug it up in any room. It doesn't use much wattage, so is safe for just about any surface. Although I would probably lay something down just in case.

    In my super young days when I was "just married" I slapped that bad boy on the floor and cooked! Of course, I had no kids so that wasn't a worry. The biggest worry was tripping over it, which we never did. That is a surprise actually now that I think about it. 😉

  20. Debbie Black

    Great Recipe. I use whole grain Farro which has some of the same creaminess but more chew. It is also much healthier than arborio. Sometimes I add a little chicken sausage or bacon to leftovers.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Love faro, Debbie! You’ve done it in the slow cooker? The one time I tried it, it came out…weird. Not right at all.

    2. Debbie Black

      I have made it with Farro several times now, same measurement as the arborio rice and liquids….my family loves it.

  21. Clare

    This looks fabulous! I’m in slimming world though so would omit the oil and wine, any suggestions for subs of the wine?

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thanks, Clare! As risottos go this recipe’s relatively lean already, but if you want to skip the wine you could just use an equal amount of broth. I wouldn’t recommend skipping the oil though–you want to have each grain of rice coated in it, in order for this to come out properly. If you must skip some fat, I’d go with less butter and cheese at the end (though even that will affect the flavor). Good luck!

  22. Celine

    I have a squash that I roasted and then froze. I would love to use it for this recipe, but not sure best way to incorporate it in.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Hi Celine. I think the best way to use pre-cooked squash would be to cook the risotto *without* it, then stir it in at the two-hour mark. Good luck, and please report back!

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