Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash & Mushrooms ♥ Vegetarian Recipe

Today's vegetarian entrée recipe: Another idea for a vegetarian (and in fact, vegan) main dish for Thanksgiving but will have everyone, I'm willing to bet, coming back for seconds. The recipe blends four fall flavors: nutty Italian farro, butternut squash, mushrooms and sage. Very pretty on a plate.

So this is fun! I'm having a great time testing recipes suitable for vegetarian Thanksgiving entrées for the 2009 collection of Thanksgiving vegetable recipes (FYI, link updated in 2010). With this one, it took great restraint to not gobble (tee hee) it up all by myself.

The recipe starts with an idea borrowed from Cook's Illustrated, using the skins and seeds and all the 'gunk' inside a butternut squash to make a vegetarian broth, so very thrifty! The broth is gently flavored with a lovely orange tinge.

From there, the squash is pan-roasted but you could also roast the squash cubes in the oven if preferred. I also added mushrooms for bulk and texture contrast, perfect. I also added a few currants for texture and color contrast, they were great but I realized later, dried cranberries would have been the right 'seasonal' choice, snips of dried apricot a whimsical one. I chose the lovely nutty farro (what is farro?) as the 'rice' component of the risotto but the traditional choice, of course, would be rice, either arborio or carnaroli.

The recipe looks long but is very straight-forward once you get started.


Hands-on time: 1 hour
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 6 cups

1/4 cup currants (or dried cranberries or snips of dried apricot)
2 tablespoons sherry

3 cups water
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Squash 'gunk' - the seeds & stringy gunk from inside the butternut squash, also the skins

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes (How to Cut, Peel & Cube a Butternut Squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces brown mushrooms, washed, trimmed & sliced thick

1 cup semi-pearled farro
Hot broth
Additional salt & pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
Cooked squash
Soaked currants

DRIED FRUIT In a small bowl, soak the dried fruit and sherry.

BROTH Place water, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. As they're prepped, drop the squash skins and inner 'gunk' into the water. Let simmer until ready needed for the risotto. Strain out the ‘gunk'.

TO PREP THE SQUASH Wash the squash well. Trim thin slices off the stem and blossom ends of the squash. Slice off the squash's 'neck'. NECK Stand the neck upright, then slice off the tough exterior peel with a knife and drop into the broth. Turn the neck on its side, cut into rounds about a half inch thick. Stack two or three rounds on the cutting board. Using your fingers to hold the rounds together as you cut, cut first one direction and the other to form half-inch cubes. BULB Cut the bulb in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff (drop into the broth water). Place the bulb round-side up, cut into strips a half inch wide, then cut the strips into half-inch cubes. Set aside. (For more detail and photo illustrations, see How to Cut, Peel & Cube a Butternut Squash.)

SQUASH Heat the olive oil on MEDIUM in a large deep skillet until shimmery. Add the squash and stir to coat with fat. Let cook, turning occasionally, until the squash is cooked through and the edges beginning to brown. About halfway through, add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

MUSHROOMS In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmery. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat with fat, then the onions and stir to coat. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften and the onions are just beginning to turn gold.

RISOTTO (Whew! It's finally time to make the risotto!) Add the farro and stir to coat with fat, let cook a minute or two, stirring occasionally. A quarter cup at a time, add the hot broth, letting each addition be fully absorbed before adding another. Continue this practice, a quarter cup at a time, until the farro is fully cooked but still a little nutty and chewy. Stir in the cooked squash and sage, adjust seasonings if needed. Stir in the currants and their liquid, let the liquid cook down a bit and the currants heat through.

OPTION 1 Make the broth, cook the squash and cook the mushrooms the day before. Then reheat the broth and cook the risotto just before serving.
OPTION 2 Make the entire dish the day before except the currants. Then reheat the risotto, adding more liquid if needed to get the right consistency (you might want to make more broth, to have enough). Add the currants and serve.

No farro? Substitute barley or wheatberries or a risotto rice such as Arborio or carnaroli.

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~ Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese ~
~ Winter Squash Polenta ~
~ Mashed Butternut Squash & Sweet Potatoes with Citrus ~
~ more squash recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Squash Puff ~
my family's tradition
~ more winter squash recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

Looking for healthy ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous Alphabet of Vegetables. Healthy eaters will love the low carb recipes and the Weight Watchers recipes.
© Copyright 2009

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. What a perfect Thanksgiving side (or anytime meal). I love the sherry-soaked currants!

  2. I love this idea, what a great recipe!

  3. i love the thrifty broth idea. any method that extracts nutrients and flavor from normally discarded parts of vege is right up my alley. i know what i'll be doing with the guts of my next squash... fun way to turn rice orange too. gotta love natural food coloring.

  4. Thanks so much. I just looked up farro and wow...it is amazing,
    and the cooking instructions quite unique. Thank you so very much for introducing me to this. I am on my way to Whole Foods this afternoon and am going to acquire the ingredients for this dish.

    The portobello mushrooms are so great right now, I am going back for more of them. We entertained some female doctors from Mongolia this week and they fell in love with the mushroom.

    Do so love your missives.

  5. Sounds fun! I really like the look of the mushroom in that picture. Makes me want to taste a bite though I just finished dinner. This would make a beautiful Thanksgiving dish!

  6. What a beautiful and healthy looking dish. I tried orzo with butternut and it was yummy. Your dish has wonderful ingredients!
    Now I feel wasteful for throwing out the squash gunk today when I baked a butternut! :)

  7. Should the broth be strained to remove the "gunk" etc. before adding to the faro??

  8. Anonymous ~ Oh dear, yes, please do strain out the “gunk” before beginning to incorporate it into the rice. Thanks for letting me know, I’ve added the instruction to the recipe too.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna