Risotto is one of my all-time favorite dishes for all the following reasons: white rice slowly cooked in white wine, lots of butter, and lots of Parmesan cheese.
But it’s also a once-in-a-great-while treat, mainly because of all the high calorie and not-so-healthy reasons listed above.
So I’ve spent some time trying to come up with a healthier risotto, and it turns out all that butter and low-nutrition white rice isn’t necessary to a tasty and flavorful dish.
To create a healthier version of risotto, I:
- took out all the butter and used heart-healthy olive oil instead.
- used high fiber brown rice instead of the traditional starchy Arborio white rice. (I found that rice that’s slowly cooked with onions, white wine, and flavorful broth is delicious anyway, no matter if it’s white or brown.) (It’s challenging, thought-provoking work I do for this blog.)
- added low-calorie shrimp and highly nutritious butternut squash to balance out all the carbs from the rice.
- did leave in some Parmesan cheese because – here’s my philosophy – what’s risotto (or life!) without a little cheese? (Parmesan is high in fat but also a good source of protein and calcium).
Here are all the ingredients you’ll need to make a healthier risotto.
This dish tastes like a pretty elaborate, fancy schmancy dinner, but you’ll notice I’ve actually included a lot of time-saving ingredients, so the complete meal can be prepared in under 45 minutes: pre-cut and peeled butternut squash, peeled and deveined frozen shrimp, and partially boiled brown rice.
Begin by preheating the oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
Try to keep them as equally sized as possible so they’ll roast evenly in the oven.
Arrange the butternut on a parchment-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle just a bit of olive oil as well as some 100% pure maple syrup for natural sweetness.
Use your hands to mix everything together and make sure all the squash is nicely coated.
Then arrange the butternut so it’s spread out across the pan without any pieces overlapping.
Roast in the oven until the squash is easily pierced with a fork and just begins to show signs of browning around the edges.
While the squash is deliciously roasting away, begin prepping the other ingredients.
Dice up half of an onion.
Mince up some garlic.
Grate some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Place several cups of vegetable stock in a microwave-safe container.
Heat the stock in the microwave for a few minutes, until it’s hot but not yet boiling.
Keep the container covered to keep the broth warm.
You’ll add this warm broth to the rice – a little at a time – later, and it’s best to keep the broth hot so it doesn’t bring down the temperature of the rice.
Next, add some olive oil to a large, heavy stock pot over medium-low heat.
Saute the onion for several minutes, until it’s nicely softened.
Then add the brown rice.
Here’s why I used brown rice and not the traditional starchy, short-grain white rice in my Healthier Risotto: brown rice has nearly 4 times the fiber of white rice. Fiber aids in digestion, helps lower cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar. Fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer, so you may find you feel the need to eat a lot less.
Stir the rice around the pan, coating it with the olive oil and allowing it to become lightly toasted.
Then add some dry white wine and allow that to simmer and reduce down for a few minutes.
Next, add about a cup of the warm broth and stir, making sure all the rice is incorporated and not sticking to the edges of the pan.
When the broth has been mostly absorbed by the rice and only a small amount of broth remains in the pan, add another cup of the warm broth and stir again.
Repeat this process several times, until the rice is cooked.
The best way to tell when the rice is ready: do a few taste tests along the way! You’ll know your risotto is ready to serve when the rice is tender but still firm to the bite.
While the rice is cooking away, prepare the shrimp.
Just heat a bit of olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat and add the garlic.
Cook for just a minute or two and then add the shrimp.
Important Tip: Be sure the shrimp is fully thawed before cooking. It helps to pat the shrimp dry with a towel as well.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with a watery sauce, which is not ideal.
Yours truly has learned this the hard way by trying to rush this recipe a time or two.
Season the shrimp with a bit of salt and pepper and drizzle just a touch of 100% pure maple syrup.
Stir and cook until the shrimp is heated through, and then set the shrimp aside.
When the risotto is fully cooked, remove the pot from the heat and add some olive oil.
Important Tip: since the oil is added at the very end, the flavor counts, so a high quality extra virgin olive oil works best here.
Also add the freshly grated Parmesan, your secret weapon to making this risotto irresistible.
Season to your taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine everything.
Then carefully mix in the roasted squash and the maple-glazed shrimp.
This dish is so flavorful, I don’t think you’ll miss the white rice or the butter found in a traditional risotto.
Both the squash and the shrimp are slightly sweet, a delicious contrast to the rich, savory Parmesan rice.
This dish is ideal winter weather comfort food: warm, filling, and indulgent.
Best of all, it’s also healthy and guilt-free!
Here is the complete recipe: