This is not dessert.

I know, I know.  You read vanilla, you instantly think creme brulee.

And so even though the ingredient list calls for chives.  And parmesan cheese.

You are still pretty sure that this will end up with a caramelized sugar crust on top.  Somehow.


Let me tell you something else.

It’s the holiday season, people.  (Officially.  Because I said so.)  You are going to have false advertising thrown at you left and right.  And so you need to learn how to be skeptics.  Build up that tough outer shell that I know you have somewhere under that candy-coated crust and milk chocolate center.  Become a peanut M&M, I say!

Oh my.  All of that homemade caramel has gotten to my head.

(Wrong post, Jo.)

Oops.  You didn’t read that. Until after Thanksgiving.  Right?  Right.


Aaah.  Got you again!

That, my friends was a shameless ploy at keeping you hanging.  Getting you hooked.  And then leading you on.  I could totally have been a twenty-something year old guy in a former life.  Seriously.

(Although there will be homemade caramel coming.  Soon.  If I don’t eat it all before Thanksgiving.  Which will be quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.)

Until then.  There is risotto.  Which still, after all of this, does not taste like creme brulee.  But does taste delicious.

It sounds weird, I know.  Vanilla?  Savory?  What?  But if you’re a vanilla fiend such as myself, or even if you’re not.  I feel pretty confident in saying that you will love this.  You’ll be confused at first.  You’ll bite into it and won’t be quite sure what to think.  But keep going.  Don’t give up!  Reach for the stars!  Because by the end, you’ll find that you can’t stop eating it.  Even though you don’t quite know why.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Be skeptical.

It’s the holiday season, after all.


Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side, adapted from Giada’s Kitchen

4 cups vegetable broth
1 large vanilla bean
1 medium-sized winter squash (I used delicata), peeled and diced
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

1. Put the vegetable broth into a medium saucepan and warm over medium-high heat.  Cut the vanilla bean in half.  Scrape out the seeds and add them to the broth.  Add in the vanilla bean itself.  Simmer, then reduce heat to low.

2. Add the squash to the broth and simmer until it is fork-tender, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the squash chunks to a dish.  Turn the heat on the broth to low and cover to keep warm.

3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the 1/2 tbsp olive oil.  Add in the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.  Add in the rice and cook until coated with oil, about one minute. Add in the white wine and simmer, continuously stirring, until all of the wine has evaporated.  Then, in 1/2 cup-ish increments, add the broth to the rice, only adding more when the previous batch has almost entirely evaporated.  Stir.  Stir.  Stir.

4. When the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, and creamy, turn off the heat.  Mix in the squash and parmesan cheese.  Add salt to taste.  Add chives.

I am submitting this to this week’s IHCC, the theme of which is POTLUCK!  And also to the Hearth and Soul Bloghop!


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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89 Responses to Giada’s Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto


    This looks deliciously rich and maybe a little bit sweet which is totally how I like my meals. Mmm this is already bookmarked.

    I hate that it’s already the holiday season. As Boy said the other day, “Bah humbug.” I just wish it could hold off for another week or two.

  2. oooh, this reminds me of marco canora’s iron chef thanksgiving risotto – the judges gave him crap because it was a sweet risotto with squash (i think) *and* savory flavors like parmesan. you’re channeling him here, and even though he didn’t win the title of iron chef, he’s my favorite. you my friend, may win with this recipe. from the looks and sounds of this concoction, it can happen.

    i’ve never made risotto before. heck, i’ve only eaten it once – at risoterria in the west village. i want to try making this but i fear foods that are 1) challenging to make and 2) i’m not even entirely sure of how they’re supposed to taste. will have to make a return trip, then add this to my must-cook list. it looks beautiful!

  3. Joanna says:

    I knew some one would make this! I made it and couldn’t photo it thanks to my broken frigging camera, so I’m glad it got posted by one of the crew! Loved this dish.

  4. This sounds so interesting. I am curious as to how the flavors combine but I am sure it will be delicious just as you said.

    A very Happy Thanksgiving to you, Joanne!

  5. jenna laughs says:

    I love this, Joanne! I bet it smells wonderful.

  6. Lea Ann says:

    Delicious. Be forwarned, I might just fly to NYC and grab everyone of those cute bowls you have and run as fast as I can back to Colorado.

  7. I am so intrigued by this one! I think I will make it and then make it again for a dinner party I have coming up in a few weeks!

    I need good vanilla beans!!!! <-- nothing better!

  8. gotnomilk says:

    I’m totally trying this. I love your serving bowl.

  9. Superb risotto! Vanilla must taste interesting in this dish.

  10. Evan @swEEts says:

    I’ve actually never tried to make risotto.. this sounds really good though! Giada usually has her Italian dishes down pat 😉 so I think I’ll have to give this a try

  11. Mary says:

    How gorgeous is that? If it tastes half as good as it looks you have a real winner here. Have a great day, Joanne. Blessings…Mary

  12. Mo Diva says:

    i was a skpetic till i had bobby flays brussel sprouts that had vanilla in them…it was not what i thought it would be (in a good way) and totally delicious.
    I love this recipe! nicely done.

  13. Eliana says:

    I would have never thought of adding vanilla to a savory dish but this looks and sound super delish girl.

  14. elra says:

    The vanilla for risoto sounds pretty intriguing.

  15. Oh yes! I have done this delicious dish more than once. It is so good. Thanks for reminding me as I have three butternut squash sitting in the window of my kitchen. I am Giada and Ina groupie!

    Speaking of the two ladies, if you ever have a chance to watch Julia Child’s “The French Chef” from WGBH Boston (out on video of course) please do. My oh my, how cooking shows have changed. Julia is delightful, messy and kitchen accident prone–and she’s fearless when it comes to using butter and heavy cream. Love her!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


  16. Ann says:

    I love anything Giada and anything butternut squash. Looks delicious. Joanne, are you actually at MSKCC? I am a patient there.

  17. Sarah S. says:

    I totally trust you with this one!

  18. Swathi says:

    This risotto with butter squash sounds delicious. Happy thanks giving to you and your family

  19. Astra Libris says:

    I love savory settings for vanilla!! This looks GORGEOUS!!!

    *attempting to put into words how excited I am about the prospect of your homemade caramel…* 🙂

  20. Amy says:

    Wait, you mean there are rules about how vanilla should be used? I usually just drink it straight from the tiny bottle 😉 Who could ever be skeptical about Butternut squash risotto? Not I! I want.

    Now then, I’ll be dreaming of caramel until we meet again.

  21. Diana says:

    That does sound interesting, i have never eaten vanilla in a savory dish, not that i can think of. But i love butternut squash risotto, so i am tempted to give this a try.

  22. MM says:

    I’ve only eaten vanilla in one savory dish (some Emeril lobster dish a friend made). It was just like you described: not sure what to think at first, but ended up good. I like trying new spins on risotto. Very versatile.

  23. You have combined flavors in this risotto well.A hint of sweet and lots of freshness with fresh squash!I like that flower cowl of yours!

  24. Can’t WAIT for the caramels! Have a most wonderful holiday!


  25. You don’t have to convince me to eat my butternut squash! What a delicious combination with the risotto.

  26. Victoria says:

    Don’t worry, you didn’t lose me with the vanilla 🙂 I see in savory dishes quite a bit and I think it’s a great touch! I’ve heard of lobster with vanilla quite often but never tried it. This risotto looks great! I am a huge fan of winter squash as you are 🙂

  27. Ms. Meanie says:

    Hmmm…vanilla in a savory dish does sound unusual, but it sounds really good to me! I tend to like “strange” flavors in my savory dish, like cinnamon — love it! And hello..butternut squash anything always has a place in my heart. I LOVE Giada’s butternut squash lasagna, so I’m guessing this risotto is very good too. But I’m also waiting to hear/read about this homemade caramel…not sure if I can wait till after Thanksgiving!

    How’s your running going?

  28. There you go again, always leading us on, you tease. Sigh, risotto is one of those dishes that I can’t get right. Either that, or I make it correctly, and it just doesn’t do anything for me. But I see a gorgeous recipe like this, and I think that it looks tasty, so I suppose I’m just messing it up. Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  29. Faith says:

    Mmmm, vanilla…it’s one of those things that I become transfixed on and could sit around and just smell all day. (Kidding…kind-of. 😉 ) Anyway, it sounds wonderful with the butternut in here!

    By the way, I was hooked when I saw your comment about the homemade caramel earlier on FB! 🙂

  30. Hi Jo jo! It is my week off from commenting on the hearth and soul hop, but i wanted to stop by and in my own personal thanksgiving tradition where I actually SAY thanks to those who are important to me in my life, I am saying that to you babycakes because you make me laugh, you are so supportive, you have a wonderful creative spark and you simply wicked rock! I know we will hook up in person very soon and I simply cant wait! All the best, and what is it with you and risotto? lol hugs! Alex

  31. Pam says:

    I’ve never used vanilla in a savory dish – I bet it was great with the butternut squash. This risotto looks terrific!

  32. Wild! I have never used vanilla in a savoury dish before. Looks great!

  33. Katerina says:

    This is such an unusual combination of flavors. I will try it for sure because I love risotto but more than this I love unusual.

  34. Tempting us with caramel, good for you!

    Love anything with squash so this looks delicious! I especially love the bowl that you put it in!

  35. Joanne, you’ve got me convinced to eat a meatless meal with this post…..Hmmmm, I think this may be the first time in history!?!?! Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  36. girlichef says:

    It’s funny because that is EXACTLY what I think everytime I look at this recipe. And I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Must be the squash that keeps luring me in. I’m glad to hear that you like it…and glad you told me it’s savory. That’ll make the decision easier next time I’m pondering it. Ha! Hmmm…I’m craving caramel…

    Thanks for sharing it w/ ihcc & hearth and soul hop this week, Jo…I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!!

  37. A very intriguing combination, and it looks so pretty in that bowl!

  38. Reeni says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever used vanilla in a savory dish either but I’m totally intrigued! And not skeptical in the least bit because I trust you! You never steer me wrong.

  39. i havent tried using vanilla in savoury dishes…but imma give it a try! 😀

  40. Claudia says:

    I think it totally goes with the pumpkin…er squash. And, even some cardamom or cinnamon or nutmeg wouldn’t be at all bad. Sounds good actually. Happy Thanksgiving Joanne!

  41. The subtle creaminess that comes with vanilla must add such depth to risotto. Next time I make it, I’m trying this recipe. Might throw in a little lemon zest too.

    Great post!

  42. Julie says:

    Oh this looks so delicious!! I wish I had a bowl to eat tonight. I will be trying this sometime soon! Happy Thanksgiving.

  43. sophiaaaa says:

    Somebody has had too much caffeine. Or too little of it. Tee hee! Can I have this as my Thanksgiving side? Of course, that would require you to come down to LA and spend the turkey feast with me. But our turkey will be stuffed with kabocha bread & bacon stuffing. Okay? Okay. 😀

  44. teresa says:

    creamy, dreamy, savory goodness. i LOVE this, what a great side dish for t-day!

  45. Lynn says:

    Mmm, I think the vanilla and the squash together sound lovely.

  46. aipi says:

    I am curious to see the interesting combination of vanilla in the savory risotto..but i guess I will have to try it for myself..your bowl is very pretty 🙂

    US Masala

  47. Shannon says:

    ooooh, i’ve been meaning to try this!! how’s that calf??

  48. looks yummy and easy to cook…

  49. Ha ha , u had my attention , not coz of caramel or coz i was expecting dessert , coz its u:-)
    I always love to expect the unexpected here and love how delicious ie!
    Pretty bowl u have there!!
    Wud love it either as mains or sides ,anytime!!
    yay, for the holidays and lookn forward to the caramel , off to think which one , what type , with what story that will be:-)
    Happy thanksgiving babes!

  50. Danielle says:

    haha…you crack me up! Yes…vanilla = dessert! But you got me in here and I’ll have to buy it…do you take cash? check? credit card? 😛
    This non-dessert looks very yummy!

  51. Joanne, this looks wonderful. I have been looking at this recipe and am totally fascinated by the combination of butternut and vanilla – I just can’t imagine what it’s like but I’m pretty sure I would love it. Can’t wait to try it.
    Sue 🙂

  52. Priya says:

    Wonderful looking rissotto..Happy thanksgiving to u and ur family..

  53. Vivienne says:

    when i saw the first pic i thought it was mango rice pudding lol.
    yea u totally could’ve been a twenty something guy leading a bunch of hungry ladies on! i love how this made me see vanilla in a new light!

  54. grace says:

    cool bowl! and i always like to see a giada recipe that doesn’t involve spageetee or broosketta. 🙂

  55. Barbara says:

    So glad you made this! I just didn’t have time…and it looks divine!

    And did I just read caramels? You’re making caramels? Am I on your gift list????

  56. I’m a vanilla fanatic, and I love using it whenever possible, including in savory dishes! Really, I buy it by the gallon. I’ve got to try this risotto, it sounds like wonderfully complex comfort food.

  57. Julie says:

    i’m all about the comoboing up of sweet and savory! even though i think this would be mainly sweet? idk it just looks and sounds amazing!

    when will you cook for meeeeeeeeee

  58. Ty'sMommy says:

    Ok, I admit, I did do a double-take when I saw the combination. I’ve definitely never tried that one before! I love risotto though, so I’d definitely be willing to try it.

  59. I love the bowl you have Joanne, so cute!

    I still have never made ANYTHING with an actual vanilla bean…what am I waiting for? This dish looks amazing and yummy as always.

    What are you contributing for Thanksgiving? I’m sure it will be something totally deluxe!

  60. Maya says:

    Ha! I love the writing style of this post. Vanilla can be savory just like chocolate can be savory, right? Right. My mom has approximately 12 butternut squashes from the summer garden, so I better hop to it and recreate this dish!

  61. Oh my goodness! I just blogged about butternut squash orzo and how it’s the lazy man’s version of bnut squash risotto. But screw being lazy! I want this! With the vanilla! Ohhh yum! 🙂


  62. Alisa Cooks says:

    I’m so glad you spoke up … I’m going to bust out the green and red decor now because Joanne gave permission 🙂

    Hmm, no definitely not dessert, but I’m wondering if based on the flavors I could easily omit the cheese from this one.

  63. Yvette says:

    You made me verry curious!
    Squash risotto and vanilla…..
    I think i’m going to reach for the stars

  64. oh great risotto I bet the vanilla works well

    happy thanksgiving

    love Rebecca

  65. I love the addition of vanilla in this dish! Sounds great and looks beautiful!

  66. Your posts are always the most fun. I hope you end up being a wonderful doctor, cause it is keeping you from your writing.

    Happy Thanksgiving.cook up a storm!

  67. I made my first risotto earlier this month! I want to try this one – i’ve never even seen a vanilla bean – going to have to google it!

  68. Dawn says:

    I trust you. I know this goes perfectly together. My problem would be stopping at my one serving,

  69. I believe you and Giada. Vanilla does pair so well with butternut squash. i once did a cake with the two ingredients:

    Your risotto looks FAB!! xo

  70. Cathy says:

    Yum! Butternut squash is wonderful! I’ve made a great soup before, but that’s all I’ve used it in. This risotto sounds great! Thanks for sharing!

  71. Raina says:

    Very interesting! It looks amazing! Vanilla in anything is usually a good thing. Sounds like that is the case here:)

  72. Donna-FFW says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Joanne!

  73. Johanna GGG says:

    wow that recipe is messing with my head – I am not a huge vanilla fan but suspect vanilla would go well with butternut pumpkin

  74. Christy says:

    Wow, you totally had me at squash and vanilla – with risotto, are you sure it isn’t a dessert? Sounds delish! And I will be back to see the caramel. Thanks for sharing this with the hearth and soul hop and I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving!

  75. Monet says:

    Giada has never let me down when it comes to holiday recipes. I made her butternut squash lasagna last year to rave reviews. I’m going to have to give this a try! Thanks for sharing, my friend. I hope you have a blessed day with your family and friends tomorrow!

  76. tigerfish says:

    Sweet in a savory dish is definitely a YES for me! Yes yes yes! Just keep pple guessing if it is entree or dessert ;p

  77. Debinhawaii says:

    I have had this one tagged for a while–I think it sounds delicious–unusual but I think the vanilla would compliment the squash and creamy rice so well. It’s such a pretty dish too. 😉

  78. Butternut squash risotto! Be sweet or savoury… Count me in! Happy Thanksgiving!

  79. Happy thanks giving to you and your family. This in interesting recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  80. Mmm. I made this last week so I can attest to the fact that the vanilla is a very welcome addition to this dish.

  81. Stella says:

    Ooh, pretty risotto. It looks so delicious, Joanne. You always make things that I want to make but somehow never do. Hmm, maybe I’m too impatient for something like risotto. I guess that means I need to make myself do it, since patience is a very good virtue:)

  82. Mmm vanilla in savory things sounds like a great idea. Giada’s also one of the few Food Network stars I love (along with Michael Symon ;p). Lovely dish, Joanne! Hope you had a great TG.

  83. Kim says:

    Is that nano rice you’re using there? LOL! It looks delicious. I love the sound of this recipe, the appearance of it, and the whole idea of using vanilla in a savory application. Definitely one that I’ll be trying during the six months with Giada.

  84. Chris says:

    The way my browser tabs are, the tab title read “Giada’s Butt” and being the juvenile I am, I laughed.

    I am skeptical (per your instructions) but open to trying this. I have a few beans handy but no butternut right now.

  85. janet says:

    I am slowly going through my blog backlog.. this looks great, Joanne! Vanilla in savoury dishes sounds divine. 🙂

  86. […] years ago…Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto, Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash with Five-Spice […]

  87. so intrigued by the vanilla bean!!! but you can’t go wrong with a Giada recipe. . pinned and can’t wait to try!!

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