Pumpkin & tomato risotto

Risotto, that most elegant of comfort foods… need I say more? If you’re a risotto fan, you’re sold on this already ūüėČ

The first risotto recipe I learned was a butternut squash risotto, back when I was a vegetarian yet to make the leap into a dairy-free kitchen… years later I conducted my first experiment with tomato risotto, just to see if I could do better than the one (and only one!) I’d been so thoroughly disappointed by in a restaurant in my first dairy-free month….

And then recently I arranged a marriage of convenience between the two, lacking sufficient quantities of either tomatoes or pumpkin to allow either ingredient to fly solo. What emerged was a marriage made in heaven, the best of both risotto worlds, and the end of binary recipe thinking!

Here’s how to knock up an out-of-this-world hybrid risotto that will make angels weep (or at least keep you digging your spoon in for more)… ūüėõ

Flavour: Savoury & moreish Рcomfort-foody, yet elegant

Serves: 4 as a main meal (and if you have any left over, just chuck it in the fridge and make arancini with it the next day!)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (see here for a from-scratch recipe that will see to it that your risotto tastes perfect)
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic,¬†finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt – add more to taste if you like it salty
  • 1 tablespoon sugar – I use rapadura or palm sugar, but raw cane sugar would do just fine
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 6¬†ripe or overripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see here for my tomato-peeling tip)
  • half a¬†butternut squash (another kind of pumpkin will do just as well, but I like the smoothness of butternut squash, and the subtle Autumn flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped thyme
  • Half cup of white wine – don’t skip this unless you’re teetotal (if it’s good wine, save it for drinking – you can cook with a bottom shelf wine, so long as it’s dry wine, not sweet wine – I’d use a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, riesling, or classic dry white)
  • 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast – this gives it a slightly cheesy flavour, so use as much or as little as you like the taste of
  • Generous grind of black pepper – to your own taste
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy spread (I use nuttelex)
  • small bunch of basil, leaves only, coarsely chopped (most folks would use Italian basil for this, but I favour Thai, as it has a more complex flavour)


  1. Finely slice your onion, and sautee it in a large frying pan on a high heat with the olive oil until it turns translucent
  2. Pop your stock on the stove on a high heat while you’re cooking those onions off
    • Amateur tip: make your own stock – here’s a recipe that’ll turn out great stock every time ūüėČ
  3. Turn the heat on your onions down to medium and add half of the salt – sautee until slightly browned
  4. Mince your garlic, and stir it into your onions
    • Amateur tip: see here for how to mince your garlic to a fine paste – it’s so simple, you’ll never go back to chunky chopped garlic!
  5. Add the sugar to your onions, stir well, and turn heat down to low – sautee until a deep brown colour
  6. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, and continue to sautee on the lowest heat possible for another 5 minutes while you prepare and assemble the rest of the ingredients
  7. Toss the pumpkin into the caramelised onions, stir through, and turn the heat back up to high – stir regularly until the pumpkin starts to brown, and then turn heat down to medium
  8. Cook your pumpkin until it’s soft enough to mash, mash it slightly, and add the rest of the salt and your thyme
  9. Toss in your chopped tomatoes, stir through, and add the rest of the salt
  10. Cook pumpkin-tomato mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes or until it is reduced by a third and well-combined
  11. Stir the arborio rice into your caramelised onion, pumpkin and tomato mixture, whack the heat back up high again, and pour in a cup of stock and your half cup of white wine, stir gently
  12. Once the liquid has reduced to next to nothing and the alcohol smell has gone, now you’re cooking – you need to stand beside your risotto as it cooks like a loyal guardian, stirring it regularly, and adding the stock a cup at a time (no need to be precise with this – just make sure you do actually do it gradually) until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through
    • You’ll find the dedication to constant stirring a meditative act for sure ūüėõ (no, seriously – if you struggle to meditate, take this as your cue!) Your risotto will take 15-20 minutes to cook to perfection (use your discretion and don’t follow dogmatics who tell you “16 minutes; no more, no less”, because they don’t know your stove and the quality of your temperature control like you do ūüėČ )
  13. Once your rice is cooked through but still al dente, turn the heat down to low and stir in your nutritional yeast and basil
  14. Take off the heat and sprinkle your butter over the top of your resting risotto in small blobs; grind as much black pepper over the top as you like, and leave it for a minute
  15. When that minute is up, stir it all well in and you’ll be ready to serve
  16. Your risotto should be creamy in texture, with a silky-smooth mouthfeel, and it should be wet enough to spread across your plate when you serve it up, but not so wet that it’s soupy – enjoy! ‚̧



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