If the taste of tomato encapsulates summer, then squash is surely the same for autumn. It shares a perfect partnership with sage’s meaty, aromatic warmth – used here as an undercurrent of flavour and a crispy topping. As the evenings cool and darken, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more comforting supper.

Serves 4 as a main course

900ml vegetable stock or chicken stock

1 medium onion, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

12 sage leaves, finely chopped, about 2 tbsp

1–2 garlic cloves, chopped

250g arborio rice

Small glass of white wine

375g squash or pumpkin (peeled weight), diced small

To finish:

3 tbsp sunflower oil

About 16 sage leaves

75g butter

Piece of Parmesan or Pecorino

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the stock in a pan until almost boiling, and then keep hot over a very low heat. In a heavy-based saucepan, sweat the onion in the olive oil until soft but not browned, about 10–15 minutes. Add the chopped sage and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Now add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the oil, then add the wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Pour in about a third of the hot stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until almost all the stock has been absorbed, stirring regularly but not all the time. Add the squash and a little more stock, and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been absorbed. Continue to add more stock a little at a time until the pumpkin is soft and the rice is nicely al dente. You may not need all of the stock. The texture of the finished risotto should be loose and creamy.

When it is almost ready, heat the sunflower oil in a small pan and fry the whole sage leaves for a few seconds until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

Now it’s time for the final stage that adds so much of the creaminess to the dish. Stir the butter and a little grated cheese into the risotto and season well. Divide between warm serving bowls and throw a few crispy sage leaves over each portion. Bring the rest of the cheese and a grater to the table for guests to help themselves.


This recipe features in River Cottage Handbook No. 4: Veg Patch, written by Mark Diacono, published by Bloomsbury, and available from rivercottage.net.

Photography © Gavin Kingcome