Do you like risotto? If so, I think you will love this protein packed variation called quinotto!!
Autumn has always been my favorite season. The colors, the leaves changing, the cooler weather, the arrival of apples and other fall produce, and of course the food and flavors that come with it. It’s the season for Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday in the United States, yet also a time for family, friends and lots of gratitude.
Today on the blog, I have a recipe for quinotto or quinoa risotto that is perfect for a cool fall night. It hits all the high points for being hearty and comforting, one of the things I think we want most from our food as the weather begins to change.
When I moved to New York from Texas, I was ecstatic to experience a real deal autumn. I finally witnessed the changing of the leaves, and it is truly amazing. After settling in, I discovered taking trips to apple picking farms and farmer’s markets in Dutchess County were some of my favorite pastimes in New York.
Fast forward to today. Now I live in Peru where the seasons are reversed. It is now the beginning of spring rather than the fall. Seeing everyone’s posts relating to the autumn season on social media has brought an element of homesickness that I thought I had already moved through thus inspiring me to create the flavors of autumn in this quinoa risotto dish so I can at least have that.
I wanted to create a recipe that reminded me of home and of this season. The result is today’s recipe for a Winter Squash Quinotto which combines the fall deliciousness of butternut squash and winter greens in a creamy risotto-like dish using quinoa in place of Arborio rice.
In my first version of this recipe, I cooked it with a type of squash here in Peru that is often called pumpkin (pictured below). In the most recent version, I was able to find butternut squash and cook it with a type of squash I am more familiar with.
The results were similar except that the pumpkin is a bit more watery than butternut squash and in my opinion it doesn’t have as much flavor. So I found my results with the butternut squash to be have a creamier texture and more flavor.
The recipe calls for butternut squash puree, but if you can’t find frozen butternut squash puree, here are couple options to make it yourself.
Making your own puree
You have two options, frozen or fresh butternut squash.
- If you can find frozen butternut squash, measure out what you need and either defrost in the microwave or on the counter. When it thaws, put in food processor and blend.
- Cook fresh butternut squash. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds. Brush each half with 1 tsp olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast 40-45 minutes or until it is tender. Prick with a fork to test. Allow to cool when finished. Scoop out the pulp and measure out 1 cup. Put into food processor and pulse a few times until most of the large chunks disappear. Set the remainder aside of the butternut squash and use later in the week in another dish.
This will add a bit more time to the preparation of the quinotto so be sure to factor that in. Obviously using the frozen butternut squash is the quicker method between the two. But this is also a step that you can easily prep ahead and refrigerate until you are ready to prepare the dish.
The flavors in quinotto
I tested pairing the squash with a couple different herbs. I feel like you can use any combination of sage, thyme or marjoram in this quinoa risotto recipe with great results. However, I really like the flavor that thyme and sage brings to butternut squash and sage is more closely linked in my mind with autumn. Make sure that the dried sage you have is fresh. If your bottle is over six months old, it is likely to have lost much of its flavor and so you should trade it in for a new one. And really that goes for most spices and herbs. It’s too bad they don’t sell them in smaller amounts in the US so you can buy less at a time. Also, in the recipe I use fresh thyme because I like the flavor that the fresh version brings to the dish.
Winter greens include kale, chard, collard greens and some others. Personally, I recommend using chard or kale for this quinotto recipe. These winter greens are a good plant-based source of calcium. Calcium is a nutrient that may be difficult for a vegetarian or plant-based eater to meet their needs simply through their meals. So finding vegetables that provide it is fantastic.
Of course, today these greens are usually available year around. However, they are often referred to winter greens because they have the ability to withstand cold temperatures. Spinach is also a winter green. It would work well in this recipe, but spinach also contains oxalate which binds to the calcium making it harder for the body to absorb the calcium and use it.
Cooking the seeds in your squash
Most of you have heard of eating pumpkin seeds and they are usually pretty easy to find these days in the grocery store. Also called pepitas, they are green in color and add a crunch and flavor to whatever you sprinkle them on. I like to use them on yogurt and salads, but they also make a nice garnish and texture addition to a dish such as this quinotto.
But another option, if you want to “waste less” is to cook the seeds inside the squash you buy for this recipe. Simply scrape them out along with the pulp. Rinse to remove all the excess pulp. Dry them out a bit and then toss with a touch of olive oil and put them in an oven to roast. They don’t take long, maybe 5 minutes or so.
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One of my favorite brands for grains, legumes and flours is Bob’s Red Mill and I choose it over any other brand when it is available. They have several different varieties of quinoa available to choose from and any of them would work but I really like the color that the tricolor version brings to this dish.
I used my favorite stainless steel skillet with deep sides that helps keep the food inside the pan when you are stirring. Plus it comes with a lid so that you can cover the dish when cooking as needed.
Quinotto with Winter Squash and Greens[bctt tweet=”A delicious, creamy quinotto, a risotto using quinoa in place of the traditional Arborio rice to create a yummy and protein packed one dish meal.” username=”Lyn_Croyle”] This recipe goes together fairly quickly. It does require a bit of attention as you slowly add in the liquid just like you do with a regular risotto. But it doesn’t require the constant stirring that you must do with regular risotto. Just be sure to give it a stir every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick and also to move the quinoa around so it all gets a chance to absorb some liquid.
Quinotto with Winter Squash and Greens
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 leeks white part only sliced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 ½ cups tri-colored quinoa
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth divided
- 1 cup butternut squash pureed
- 2 T nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 T miso
- Dried Sage 1 tsp
- Fresh thyme 1 T
- ½ - tsp sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds or walnuts*
- 2 tsp olive oil divided
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 Bunch Swiss Chard or Kale
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with clean water for a few minutes. Be sure to drain as much water as possible from the quinoa.
- Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks and saute until softened and translucent about 4-5 minutes. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds to release flavor.
- Add the quinoa and continue stirring. The quinoa will begin to toast a bit and any remaining liquid from the vegetables should dry out.
- Add white wine to quinoa and stir well. Allow the liquid to be completely absorbed or evaporated.
- Add two cups of vegetable stock, stir to combine and lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally.
- Add another cup of vegetable stock and after stirring it in allow it to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Combine the final cup of water with the squash puree, miso, soy sauce and nutritional yeast. When all the liquid has been absorbed from the previous addition, add the squash and water mixture to the pan. Add the seasonings thyme and sage. Cook for five minutes and then add salt and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
- After adding the last cup of liquid, toast the pumpkin seeds**. Place the pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat to toast. Gently shake the pan frequently to move the seeds around so they don’t burn. They should toast in 2-3 minutes.
- Once all the liquid is absorbed. Add the parmesan cheese. Taste to see if additional salt and/or pepper is needed. Stir in the kale.
- While the quinoa is cooking begin prepping greens. Wash and drain the leaves. Remove the leaves stalks and trim out the thicker pieces of the ribs.
- Heat ½ T of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, add 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and stir for 30 seconds. Add greens and stir and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 T water, cover and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the greens are tender and wilted but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve up quinotto and top with with top each serving off with 1 T toasted pumpkin seeds and greens.
UPDATE TO POST:
So I had some questions regarding this recipe that I felt like I should add to the post in order to clarify a few things.
- When selecting a wine, it really doesn’t matter what type you use. It’s there simply to add a bit of flavor and so an inexpensive dry white wine is perfect. As a further note, when any type of alcoholic beverage is cooked, the actual alcohol is cooked off.
- Also, someone suggested making the serving size smaller and topping it with a protein such as a fried egg or shrimp. I think that’s an excellent idea if you want to add those on for some extra protein. Just remember, that the quinoa is also a source of complete protein so you don’t need to add it just to boost the protein, but it may increase your enjoyment or satiety of this dish.
Did you like this quinotto recipe? If you cook it and happen to have photos you can share them and tag me on Instagram @cookeatlivelove. Also, please leave me a comment here and tell me about your cooking experience and be sure to rate the recipe with 5 stars in the recipe card!!
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