Vegan Pumpkin Risotto

Mac and Cheese Gets a Makeover

I kid you not: This tastes like childhood + thyme. 

Taking my first bite of this pumpkin risotto was like stepping back in time. The warm, creamy, savory forkful of perfectly seasoned rice transported me to my pre-vegan days of enthusiastic macaroni consumption. Although more elegant and far healthier, this dish scratched a velveeta shells and cheese itch that I didn't even know I had. You'll forgive me the mixed metaphor when you try it for yourself. 

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)*
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • 16 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp sea salt*
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste) 

*I am aware that it is slightly ridiculous to call for low sodium veggie broth and then ask you to add sea salt six ingredients later. But trust me, it's better this way. 

Preparation

  1. Combine vegetable broth and 1/2 C water in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer on the stove top. Continue to simmer while preparing the rest of the recipe. 
  2. In a large pot (or in a deep and meaningful skillet), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).  
  3. Stir in the rice until it is well coated in oil, lightly toasted (1-2 minutes), and heated through. Be careful not to burn it please. Thank you. 
  4. Slowly add the white wine (it should sizzle when it hits the pan) and cook until the wine has evaporated. 
  5. Add 1/2 C simmering vegetable broth to the rice, and stir until the moisture has cooked off. Add another 1/2 C simmering vegetable broth to the rice and repeat this process until kingdom come, stirring frequently. 
  6. Once all of the vegetable broth has been added and the rice is almost fully cooked, add in the canned pumpkin, ginger, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.  
  7. Stir stir stir until everything is heated all the way through and the rice is happily cooked. 
  8. Garnish with thyme. Spoon into bowls. Serve with love. 

Elements of a Brilliant Risotto

The Right Rice 

Arborio rice, the short grain Italian rice traditionally used for risotto, has the ideal starch composition for creating a creamy dish with just the right amount of chew. (For my fellow nerds out there, arborio rice has a higher percentage of amylopectin, which is the kind of starch that gelatinizes when heatedhence the classic creaminess.) In my humble but strong opinion, arborio rice is the heart and soul of a good risotto. Don't skimp. Don't sub. 

Generous Stirring 

Risotto requires constant love, so be sure you're in the mood to hang out by your stove for a while. Give it whirl with your wooden spoon at least every 30 seconds to a minute. Continuous stirring helps release the starches, which is key for acquiring maximum creaminess. This dish demands commitment and requires attention, but it's SO worth the investment of time and elbow motion. 

Patience & Heat

Keep the veggie broth simmering on the stove alongside your risotto-to-be. This will enable you to eschew rapidly cooling down the rice each time you add another 1/2 C dose of broth. Add your broth only a little (1/2 C) at a timethis too helps the starches release to create that requisite risotto cream factor.