Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash is creamy Arborio rice with saffron, salty pancetta (or turkey bacon), and sweet butternut squash. The perfect meal for fall!

saffron risotto with butternut squash

I’ve been thinking about making this risotto ever since last winter when I found the recipe on Food Network. Bob and I love butternut squash, and I’m always looking for new ways to make risotto after making this Spring Green Risotto.

This is my first recipe using saffron! I actually found a (relatively) inexpensive jar at Trader Joe’s and have been waiting for a recipe that calls for it. I’m not sure I really know what saffron tastes like, even after eating this dish … maybe it was too inexpensive that the flavor suffered?

Regardless, this was a great meal that we both loved. The butternut squash is so sweet and nicely counterbalances the salty turkey bacon (or pancetta). The shallots sort of melt into the sauce, which is creamy and smooth. Risotto takes patience, but this one is well worth the effort!

Recipe Details

Roasting the Butternut Squash

First, the butternut squash is prepared for roasting. This involves peeling, removing seeds, and cutting it into cubes. Check out my Butternut Squash and Apple Soup recipe for step-by-step pictures of how to cut a butternut squash!

The cubes of squash are tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then roasted. Roasting vegetables brings out a natural sweetness and makes them taste so much better than steaming.

Sauteeing the Shallots and Pancetta

Shallots are used in the recipe rather than onions. The flavor is a bit more subtle, and the shallots are there to add flavor rather than texture. Once the risotto is finished, the shallots basically disintegrate into the creamy sauce.

Because I do not eat beef or pork, I used turkey bacon in place of pancetta. You could also substitute regular bacon if you can’t find pancetta. The point is to get that bit of salty smoked flavor to balance the sweetness of the squash.

Making the Risotto

After the shallots and pancetta/bacon sauteed, the rice is added with wine and then the process begins of adding small amounts of chicken stock or broth until they are absorbed before adding more. This method is what gives risotto the creaminess. It does take a bit of patience, but it’s worth it.

Finishing the Risotto

Once all of the stock has been added and the rice is tender, the roasted butternut squash and Parmesan cheese are added off the heat. The dish is now ready to eat! I always serve extra Parmesan cheese for topping when a recipe has Parmesan cheese as an ingredient.

Gluten Free Saffron Risotto

Arborio rice is naturally gluten free, but as with any food allergy or intolerance, please consult your packaging for cross contamination.

Looking for More Rice Dishes?

Check out my other recipes featuring Rice:
Mexican Rice
Coconut Cilantro Rice
Spring Green Risotto
Soy Free Chicken Fried Rice

Looking for more Recipes with Fall Flavors?

Check out my favorite Fall recipes:
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Turkey Pumpkin Meatloaf Muffins
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Tart Appetizers
Caramelized Apple Stuffed Chicken with Fontina and Cherries
Roasted Acorn Squash
Ribollita Soup
Leek and Potato Soup
Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
Roasted Tomato Soup

and many more Fall Desserts summarized in my Flavors of Fall Recipe Round Up post!

saffron risotto with butternut squash

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

A creamy risotto with the flavors of saffron, salty pancetta (or turkey bacon), and sweet butternut squash. A perfect fall meal!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 or more


  • 1 butternut squash (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick )
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced (or turkey bacon)
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Roast the Squash:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Make the Risotto:

  • Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta or turkey bacon and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
  • Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.


Source:  Ina Garten via FoodNetwork
You’re Gonna Bake It After All
Keyword gluten free, Italian, main dish, rice

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