Risotto is one of the many Italian dishes that have made their way into the hearts of thousands, even millions, of people around the world. A common staple food in Italy, risotto has been around for hundreds of years, starting from the point when rice was introduced to the region.1 Although risotto is traditionally made with grain, changes in the recipe are now being done, giving you a surplus of healthier and tastier variations. One example is this delicious, no-grain butternut squash “risotto” from Felicia Lim of Paleohacks.
Butternut Squash Cauliflower Risotto
Cook Time: 40 minutes
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and divided
- 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups water
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried garlic and parsley mix
- Salt to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Toss the cubed butternut squash with 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil. Spread the pieces in a single layer on a baking tray.
- Roast for 40 minutes, flipping over the squash halfway through.
- While the squash is cooking, make the cauliflower rice by placing the florets in a food processor and pulsing them into the size of rice.
- Melt the remaining coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
- Mix in the cauliflower rice and sauté for two minutes. Add the water, bay leaves, dried garlic and parsley. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
- Once the butternut squash is ready, mix it into the cauliflower risotto until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Add salt. Serve hot, garnished with fresh chopped parsley.
What Is Risotto?
Being one of the top producers of rice in Europe, it’s no surprise that this grain is a main ingredient in a number of Italian recipes, including arancini and risotto. One common misconception: The term “risotto” does not directly refer to the grain used, but refers to the process in which the grain is cooked. The traditional way that risotto is prepared is by using good-quality rice and broth. The slow cooking process allows the rice to fully absorb the broth, lending it a rather creamy and flavorful taste.2
Risotto is traditionally made with short, starchy rice, with Arborio and Carnaroli being two of the most popular choices.3 However, if you want to make a gluten-free dish, cauliflower works as a great substitute.4
Why Cauliflower Is a Worthy Substitute for Rice
While rice itself contains specific nutritional components, it may also pose risks, especially if high amounts are eaten regularly, as it has been shown to increase postprandial blood glucose response.5 Cauliflower, on the other hand, has proven to be a deserving substitute not just for its rice-like texture, but also due to its nutrient density. In fact, cauliflower contains a surplus of flavonoids, polyphenols and antioxidants, which may help combat numerous body conditions.6 Some of the benefits you may get from cauliflower include:
- Reduced inflammation — Cauliflower contains indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory component that may help inhibit inflammatory responses in the body.7 In a 2017 animal study, it was found that cauliflower leaf powder supplementation may help animals combat inflammation and oxidative stress.8
- Lower risk for cancer —Cruciferous vegetables have been linked to cancer prevention due to their bioactive compounds, one of which is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been found to be chemoprotective by facilitating a cytotoxic response in cancer cells.9
- Enhanced brain development in babies in-utero — Cauliflower contains high amounts of choline, a component that is essential for brain development. In a 2004 study, it was found that prenatal choline supplementation may promote the development of hippocampal pyramidal cells and, in turn, improve memory and other brain functions in adulthood.10
Get These Benefits From Butternut Squash
Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is a variety of winter squash that is loaded with numerous nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.11 Some of the benefits that you may get if you decide to try out this recipe are:
- Aids in digestion — A 1-cup serving (205 grams) of butternut squash contains 6.6 grams of fiber,12 which may help improve digestion and fight constipation.13
- May combat macular degeneration — Butternut squash contains high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C. These nutrients may help slow down or stop the progression of macular degeneration by fighting oxidative stress.14
- Helps maintain heart health — A cup of butternut squash contains 582 mg of potassium,15 a mineral that has been found to regulate blood pressure.16
Follow These Tips to Choose the Right Squash
A lot of people might find it extremely hard to pick just the right squash since the ripening process is opposite to that of other fruits or vegetables. However, if you’re not entirely sure how to pick one out, there’s nothing to worry about. Here are a few tips you can follow to ensure that you get just the right vegetable for this recipe:17
- Choose a squash that has a firm and matte exterior — Unlike other fruits, the exterior of a squash hardens the more it ripens.
- Knock on the squash’s skin to check for ripeness — Ripe squashes usually sound hollow, while unripe ones sound dull.
- Avoid squashes that have a moldy stem, cracks or soft spots — This usually means that the squash is already overripe and unfit for consumption.
Another thing to note is that winter squashes were found to contain high pesticide residue,18 which means that they absorb more pesticides compared to other fruits and vegetables. So, if you’re planning on shopping for squashes for this recipe, it would be best that you go for organic ones. Better yet, you can make your way to your local farmers market where you can ensure the quality and source of the produce you’ll be eating.
Why Should You Use Coconut Oil for Cooking?
The abundance of cooking oils available in the market today may make it hard for you to determine what the safest or healthiest option is. The good news is that you don’t have to look far and wide to search for the perfect oil to cook with, as the best one is actually widely available, albeit it’s been demonized by the food industry for a number of years.19
Coconut oil has been around for hundreds of years, with people using it for dietary or personal care purposes.20 Because of the impressive components found in coconut oil, including medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil offers a handful of health benefits you can get once you make the switch. Coconut oil may help:
- Improve brain function— Coconut oil contains high levels of medium-chain fatty acids, which are readily absorbed and converted into ketones. Ketones are used as a healthy fuel alternative for the brain, reducing its dependence on glucose.21 MCT supplementation has also been linked to better cognitive function in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.22
- Protect you from cardiovascular diseases — Although coconut oil has been claimed to heighten your risk for cardiovascular disease, scientific studies prove otherwise. In fact, a 2016 study showed that the reduction of saturated fat intake had little impact in reducing mortality caused by cardiovascular disease.23 In addition, coconut oil has been found to increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels, which may lower heart disease risk.24
- Combat harmful pathogens in the gut — The overgrowth of G. albicans, a fungal pathogen that may infect the GI tract and cause bloodstream infection, may be controlled by coconut oil, according to an animal study published in the Nutrition and Metabolism journal.25
This Butternut Squash Risotto Is a Delicious and Nutrient-Filled Dish for Your Family
As a popular dish, risotto may be one of the recipes that’s hard to tweak because of its distinct texture and flavor profile. However, this has not stopped cooks and chefs from around the world from changing it up, paving the way for healthier options, which include this Butternut Squash Risotto recipe. If you’re tired of the usual risotto they serve at Italian restaurants or you just want to prepare something new for yourself or your family, this recipe would be perfect.
It’s also important to learn how to cook this vegetable properly. Fortunately, there are several different methods you can try. Read my article, “How to Cook Butternut Squash,” for more helpful tips.
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Paleohacks is one of the largest Paleo communities on the web. They offer everything Paleo, from a Q&A forum where users get their top health questions answered, to a community blog featuring daily recipes, workouts and wellness content. You can also tune in to their podcast, where they bring in the top experts in the Paleo world to share the latest, cutting-edge health information.
Sources and References