This is a seriously rich and comforting winter dish, and one which comes together quickly, so ideal for a weeknight. Rather than being made with pearl barley as the name would suggest, this is made with a pasta shape named “orzo”, due to its resemblance to pearl barley. Just like a regular risotto, it needs to be served and eaten straight away once it’s ready, so I wouldn’t recommend you make it in advance.
I often find butternut squash to be overwhelmingly sweet, so I like to eat this with a big handful of rocket leaves, which are peppery so cut through the sweetness. Alternatively, crumbled blue cheese, or feta would do the same job with a pleasant salty kick. And if you love the unadulterated sweetness of the squash, then I’d suggest just a crisp fried sage leave to garnish, as pictured to the right.
Butternut squash orzotto
- 2 tbsp veg oil
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced (about 800g once prepped)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 300g orzo pasta
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock (this might vary a little, use it as a guide)
- 50g grated vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, plus extra to serve
- Salt and black pepper
- Big handful rocket leaves, lightly dressed in a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice
- Heat the oven to 180’c. Combine the diced butternut with the first lot of garlic and the thyme leaves in a roasting tin, drizzle over the vegetable oil, season with salt and black pepper, then toss to coat the pieces in oil. Cover in foil, and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife.
- In a large non-stick saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic with the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the orzo to the pan, along with the cooked butternut squash, and stir to combine everything. Add the hot stock a little at a time, as you would for a regular risotto, and keep stirring very frequently as the pasta has a tendency to stick otherwise. Keep stirring as it simmers, adding more stock gradually until the pasta is just cooked (al dente) – you may need an extra ladleful of stock, or you might not need the full litre, just stop as soon as the pasta is al dente, and the orzotto is a nice loose consistency. It should take about 12-15 minutes.
- Beat in the grated cheese and season really well with salt and black pepper. Pick out any woody thyme stalks, and serve immediately. See intro for serving suggestions.
If you have leftovers, it’s best to reheat in a pan adding an extra ladleful of hot stock to loosen it as it reheats.
To make it vegan simply omit the cheese.