Slow Cooker Bacon and Butternut Risotto

I really like risotto. But, until recently, I have largely avoided making it as I found it too tedious and difficult to stand over the stove stirring risotto while hungry children want to see what I am doing. And then, I decided to experiment with making risotto in the slow cooker – it was wonderfully quick and easy and risotto is now very much back as a dinner option in our house!

This makes enough for at least 4 generous adult servings for a cost of less than NZ$20 (based on current prices) for the actual ingredients used. I like to serve a salad or other vegetable dish beside this to add a fresh texture in contrast to the creamy richness of risotto. Every slow cooker is different, so I’d recommend checking your risotto regularly after about an hour, particularly the first time you make this, and adding more liquid as required until the rice has cooked properly.

Make it cheaper:

This dish can be made cheaper in a few ways. First, homemade stock is much cheaper than shop-bought stock and gives you better control over what goes into it. However, if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own (I usually don’t), stock powder and stock cubes, from which you can make your own stock, are often cheaper than liquid stock – just check that any stock you buy is gluten free. Second, compare bacon prices within and between shops as these vary considerably. Finally, the type of cheese you choose will influence the price significantly – I calculated the cost of this recipe to be below NZ$ 20, including part of a block of parmesan cheese, but choosing a cheaper block of cheese will bring down the price – the type of cheese I’d suggest depends on which country you are in but options such as Cheddar, Edam and Colby should all work!

What you need:

2-3 tablespoons of mild oil

1 large onion, finely diced

250 grams of bacon rashers, roughly chopped into pieces about 1 inch long

½ butternut, cut into roughly 1 inch cubes

300 grams of arborio rice

1 litre of hot vegetable or chicken stock (check for gluten free)

75 grams of grated cheese

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Optional fresh herbs to garnish, such as thyme or parsley

What to do:

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, fry the onion and bacon together until the onion is soft and the bacon is cooked.

2. Once the onions and bacon are cooked, add the butternut and fry briefly, stirring constantly, to start caramelising the edges of each cube.

3. Add the rice to the pan and briefly stir into the ingredients already in the pan.

4. Add the hot stock to the pan and stir everything together (using hot stock will help to deglaze the pan).

5. Tip the entire contents of the pan into the slow cooker. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn it to ‘high’. Leave the risotto to cook in the slow cooker for about an hour, stirring a couple of times during that time to make sure no rice is sticking to the bottom.

6. At the end of an hour, check on the risotto. If the rice hasn’t yet cooked but there is still sufficient liquid, leave it to continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes and then check it again. If the rice hasn’t yet cooked but there isn’t much liquid, add another cup of water or stock, replace the lid and leave it to cook for another 20 to 30 minutes before checking on it again. If your risotto does need extra time, keep checking on it and adding extra water or stock as needed (not too much at a time) until it is fully cooked. Please excuse the terrible picture – the steam was not playing nicely with the camera!

7. Once the risotto is cooked, stir the grated cheese thoroughly into the risotto. Stir salt and pepper to taste through the risotto and then turn off the slow cooker.

8. Serve warm straight from the slow cooker with fresh herbs to garnish if desired.

9. Enjoy!

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