This hearty baked brown rice risotto is filled with chunks of sweet roasted pumpkin. This risotto is a classic with a healthy twist, and it’s ready in under 45 minutes. This is a risotto for every day.
Risotto is one of my favourite dishes to order at restaurants. For one, it’s usually a safe bet that there is at least one gluten free and vegetarian risotto on the menu. Secondly, it’s basically the adult equivalent of ordering rice pudding for dinner. Savoury rice pudding that is acceptable to eat in public as a grown up. My best friend Caroline makes a mixed mushroom risotto that makes Italian nonnas weep with gratitude. It’s full of all the good things: butter, mushrooms, cheese, butter… This risotto is a little different. Just a little more paired down. An everyday-worthy risotto that’s perfect for refuelling our bodies in the winter chill, but not so heavy that you’re going to need to hibernate like a risotto-filled polar bear.
I packed this risotto with vegetables, and cut back on the rice just a wee bit. There are big chunks of pumpkin roasted with just a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a good few handfuls of baby spinach to get some green action happening. Instead of the usual parmesan (though I have nothing but pure, undying love for parmigiano reggiano) I served this weekday risotto with just a smattering of feta. What’s more classic than the pairing of pumpkin, spinach and feta?
(P.S. If you leave the feta off, this dish is completely vegan, which makes it even friendlier for everyone gathered around your dinner table)
I also changed the traditional pearly arborio rice for brown rice. This is a little weekday tweak that gives this dish a little more fibre, a lower GI, and some extra nutrients that are stripped out of white rice during the refining process. Plus, I love brown rice. It’s so nutty and hearty and perfect for a warming winter dish.
This dish is prepared in two parts, and then combined. First you bake the pumpkin and while it is roasting you prepare the brown rice base. You start it on the stove top to get the onion and garlic fragrant, and to toast the rice in the olive oil. As far as my risotto science research, this stops the grains from going soggy when they are absorbing the liquid. Once you’ve toasted the rice, you add the stock and some pepper and bring it to the boil before sliding it into the oven with the pumpkin to bake for 45 minutes. What emerges is pure risotto heaven. You then mix through the spinach (which wilts nearly instantly without over-cooking) and carefully fold in the sweet roasted pumpkin. Voila! Oven baked risotto!
Now, when my risotto craving hits midweek I know I have an easy, healthy, hearty version of the classic Italian dish that is on the table in under an hour, and uses ingredients that I have in my cupboard every day. This one is bound to become a family favourite!
Baked Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto
gluten free | vegan | serves 4 | leftovers will keep up to two days in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat: spoon out desired portion into a microwave-safe container and microwave on medium-high until warmed through
- 1kg pumpkin (choose your favourite kind)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta, to serve (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with baking paper.
- Peel pumpkin and chop into cubes (about 1 inch/ 2.5cm) and place on baking sheet. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss pumpkin cubes around to coat in oil. Sprinkle over the ground cinnamon.
- Place pumpkin in oven and roast for 20 minutes or until soft.
- While the pumpkin is baking make the risotto base.
- Heat remaining olive oil in a deep ovenproof casserole pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and thyme and cook until softened.
- Add rice and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add stock and black pepper. Turn heat to high and bring dish to a boil.
- Once boiling remove from heat and cover with lid. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes, stirring in the middle of cooking time.
- Remove from the oven and stir through the spinach leave.
- Add pumpkin cubes and gently fold through.
- Serve with feta sprinkled on top.