Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash (and newborn photos!)

Have you ever made risotto on the stove? You have to stir forever. Make it in your slow cooker instead, you only have to stir twice! This version has flavorful sausage, tender butternut squash, a healthy handful of spinach, along with a sprinkling of parmesan. It’s perfect winter comfort food!

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Babies used to die all the time in past generations. Disease was obviously a big culprit, but I’ve been thinking lately that some of it must have been related to breastfeeding.

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food CharlatanPhotos from Allison Lal

Some women just don’t produce that much milk, and I’m one of them. It’s such a strangely emotional issue. Somehow our society has duped women into connecting their self worth with whether or not they breastfeed. I’m sure this is partly a leftover mindset from a time when, if you didn’t produce the milk, you had to deal with the guilt of a dead baby, which would obviously be devastating.

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Even though logically I know there’s only so much I can do, the emotional side of my brain keeps screaming, you’re not doing it right! There’s something wrong with you! Your only job is to feed this baby and you can’t do it! If only you were more committed, then your baby would be healthier and gaining more weight.

Because there ARE  things you can do. (Eat more. Eat better. Take herbs. Drink mother’s tea. Eat lactation cookies. Pump. Don’t pump. Make sure you’re latch is correct. Check for tongue tie. Go to a baby chiropractor. Give your baby tummy time. Sit in a chair and feed your baby all day, every day. Coast on all of your other responsibilities, including older kids.) And if you don’t do all of these things until you reach the very brink of insanity, well then you aren’t a good mom.

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

We went to stay with my brother over the holidays, he’s a doctor. He told me that studies show pretty insignificant differences between breastfed and bottle fed babies. I said, why do people make such a big deal of it then? He said, “Because women like to be mean to each other.” I know that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do wonder if that’s where some of the societal pressure comes from.

I opened up this discussion on Facebook and got an overwhelming response, all positive, all supportive. People gave their opinion on what I should do (I’m trying to decide if I should start supplementing formula) and then said things like, you’re a good mom! Follow your gut! Fed is best! No shame! Whatever you do, it’s going to be okay!

Mom guilt is totally a real thing. I feel so blessed to have support from really nice women who aren’t going to judge me. I feel even more blessed to live in a time when there is a reliable back up when you can’t produce enough! At the end of the day all I have to deal with are some tough feelings and perhaps hand washing bottles; not a funeral for my child. How lucky are we, seriously?

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

On to the recipe! Have you ever made a risotto dish? It’s just a different (Italian) way of cooking short rice, arborio rice being the most common I think. Traditionally you have to cook it over the stove, adding broth in increments and stirring constantly (this makes it creamy). But for this recipe, there are only a couple steps on the stove before it goes in the slow cooker and then your job is basically done.

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash from The Food Charlatan

(Have you ever use a canning lid to scoop the goop out of a pumpkin or squash? It’s so much easier, try it!)

 I’ve been making this risotto for a while now and it never disappoints. It’s perfectly moist and creamy, has tons of flavor (Parmesan!! Sausage!!), and is healthy to boot. Perfect way to use up all those beautiful winter squash at the store!

P.S. Aren’t those pictures up there of Valentine in the buggy adorable? That carriage is 80 years old. It was a gift to Eric’s grandmother when she was 4 years old, she used it with her dolls. Can you believe she saved it all these years?? Nana gave it to Charlotte last summer, and now she pushes Valentine around in it.

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Slow Cooker Risotto with Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash (and newborn photos!)

Yield: Serves 6-8

Recipe by The Food Charlatan


  • 3 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used cooking wine)*
  • 2 cups arborio rice (14 ounces)
  • 4 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 cups baby spinach
  • salt and pepper
  • more Parmesan, to serve


  1. Place chopped butternut squash into a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker. Cover and turn to high.
  2. In a large skillet, crumble and brown the sausage with 3 tablespoons of water over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the onion. Remove the sausage to the slow cooker and cover.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan over medium heat (keep any drippings). When the butter is hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and continue to cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add the risotto and cook for another 2 minutes, until most of the wine has absorbed.
  7. Add the chicken broth 2 teaspoons of salt, and stir until it is warm.
  8. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and stir it all together. Cover and let cook on high for 30 minutes. Stir the pot, then cover for another 30 minutes. Stir again and check to see if the risotto is tender. If not, cook for another 15-20 minutes.**
  9. When the risotto is tender, turn off the slow cooker and add 2 tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup Parmesan, and 3-4 cups spinach. Stir together and let sit until the spinach wilts. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, and serve with fresh parmesan.


*If you use regular wine, add more salt to taste at the end.

**Depending on your crock pot, you may need to increase the cook time by as much as an hour, so plan ahead. I've made it multiple times with the suggested cook times, but others have commented that it took longer.

This recipe was originally posted by me on I Heart Naptime. I was a contributor for Jamielyn’s blog in 2015, but I figure you guys want the recipes too!

You will also love these recipes!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup: < I never get tired of this soup!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup from The Food Charlatan


Pumpkin and Chipotle Corn Chowder: << You could easily replace the pumpkin in this with a different squash if you like.

Pumpkin & Chipotle Corn Chowder from The Food Charlatan


One Skillet Beef Meatballs with Rice and Peas << a get-er-done dinner that’s delicious!

One Skillet Beef Meatballs with Rice and Peas from The Food Charlatan


More recipes from friends!

Pumpkin Risotto with Bacon from Cooking and Beer
Baked Cheese Risotto from The Recipe Rebel
Creamy Leek Risotto with Crispy Pancetta from Joyful Healthy Eats

There are a couple affiliate links above. This means you pay nothing extra and I make a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Food Charlatan!





  1. says

    Precious pictures. You have your hands full. How do you find the time to make such wonderful meals? I love all your recipes and I love that they are healthy. That’s how we eat in my family. I love to cook, but if I had three small children it would be hard, but your husband looks like the type that helps. Do you grow your own herbs? I do, but in summer only. The only one that survives winter here is rosemary. I wish you and your family the best in 2017. Jennifer Moreland

    • says

      You are so right Jennifer, my husband is the type who helps, I am spoiled and lucky! I try to grow my own herbs in the summer but I have a terribly black thumb so they usually die, oops! Happy New Year, thank you for commenting!

  2. Em says

    Hey Sweetie,

    You are a great mom based on all you share and the fact that you cook such healthy food. Raised 4 kids on formula 50 years ago. They all grew tall, healthy and strong, sons are 6’3″ and more. You are so very right, we are blessed in so many ways and formula for babies is a major one. It must have been awful back then. We are so very lucky to live in these times. Keep sending these great recipes with the photos that make me run to the store as well as sharing your family. I’ve shared your site with many that I work with and we all agree your family is lucky to have you making all those great things for them! Hugs from an old lady who is one of your fans. Happy New Year!

    • says

      Thank you so much Em! Happy to hear about your tall strong sons! That is good to know :) We are very lucky to live when there is formula and great medicine, you are so right. And thanks for sharing my blog with your friends, that means so much to me. Sending you a big virtual hug!

  3. says

    Oh, honey, been there and done that with the breastfeeding. I couldn’t do it with my first (he was premature and I couldn’t pump enough to give him the calories he needed) and when I did it with my second son, I got dirty looks in the Nordstrom ladies’ lounge. Don’t please anyone but yourself and your baby, and your baby will let you know what (s)he needs. Your brother in law, unfortunately, is right: some women like to be mean to other women, and that is much more about them than you. Luckily, many women see other women as resources and allies, which is one reason why I really appreciate your site!
    Congratulations on your beautiful, healthy family.

    • Deborah Schiffman says

      Yes I had the La Leche league police after me which made things worse for me emotionally. Were I not a “lady” I’d have given them a piece of my mind after one more “tch tch tch………. it was SO easy for me ……… “

    • says

      Thank you so much for the words of encouragement Lizzie! I can’t imagine the stress of nourishing a premie, I’m glad you switched. I like what you said about being an ally and a resource, I’m going to remember that! Happy New Year!

  4. Deborah Schiffman says

    Just another shout out of support. My baby never got the Latch on and stay latched action. And he would fall asleep within a minute or two. Our pediatrician ordered me to stop trying after four months and to gradually switch to formula. More important are the hugs and cuddling you give to your little one just as possible with a bottle as with breast feeding. No need to go on any kind of guilt trip. LOVE that carriage! Keep on cookin and enjoying your wonderful family!

    • says

      oh the cursed latch! like what are you supposed to do, it’s not like you can latch for them. I’m glad your doctor told you to switch! And I agree, hugs and cuddles are top priority :) thanks so much for the encouragement Deborah!

  5. says

    Those family photos are beautiful! What a fantastic lookin’ family! :) And hey – mean people are just mean. Don’t let it get you down (easier said than done but we can try right???)! And finally, why have I never made risotto in the slow cooker before??
    Ashley recently posted…Stuffed Pepper Quinoa SkilletMy Profile

  6. Patty says

    Oh Honey my “babies” are 42 – 38 and 34 and I still have guilt over NOT breast feeding because people made me feel like crap about it. Love your family, do what you and your husband think is the right thing and love them with all your heart. Ignore the people that make you feel awful. I have a needlepoint in my living room that says “Be who you are, and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” BTW none of these guys have made me a Grandma so if you need one, I’m available. Your family is just beautiful, enjoy them.

  7. says

    Don’t even get me started on breastfeeding! I don’t know why we are made to feel that we HAVE to breastfeed and if we don’t, the world is ending. I wish I would have supplemented with formula way earlier for my own sanity, I was a CRA-ZY person! Ha. I felt so much better physically and emotionally when I gave myself a break. You are an awesome mom and ROCKING three kiddos!

    P.S. This risotto looks INSANELY delicious!

  8. says

    Karen, you are an AMAZING mom!! We’re our own worst critics, but let go of that doubt and guilt. I’ve been to your house, I’ve seen the way you interact with your kids, and I’ve seen how much you love and respect and dote on them. I know and truly believe you are one of the very best mothers in the entire world. Your three littles are SO incredibly lucky to have you!! ♡♡
    Amy @ Amy’s Healthy Baking recently posted…Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast CookiesMy Profile

  9. stephanie says

    i do not have or plan on having kids, but i just wanted to say i love the sentiment of “fed is best.” many women are super catty and judgmental. sometimes it comes from a place of good intentions (like you did a lot of research and went on a big journey and found A Thing that just worked out so amazingly awesome for you you’re very passionate about it and want to share it) but sometimes…well, it doesn’t.

    the fact that you care so much as to agonize over this in the first place, trying lots of things and of course talking to your doctor is all the proof anyone needs that you’re an awesome mom. but then, that’s not something anyone should feel pressured to “prove” in the first place, right? sigh. at the end of the day, all that matters is that you and baby both are happy and cared for.

    putting other women down, whether flat out or in a backhanded way doesn’t help anyone, and we all need to be a little more aware of how we talk to other people. everyone’s journey through life is a little different.

    (and this rice looks amazing. it’s going on the list!)

  10. says

    He is exactly right that women can be really mean to each other and it’s such a shame!! You have a BEAUTIFUL family and you are an EXCELLENT mom because you care and that’s what matters most! I made risotto for the first time a few months ago but it didn’t look as good as this, YUM!! Oh and the trick with the canning lid, brilliant!!
    Malinda @Countryside Cravings recently posted…Baked Homemade Chicken NuggetsMy Profile

  11. says

    This was delicious! I had kale to use up so used that instead of spinach. I liked the extra texture it gave. I also substituted sausage and added a bit more pasta. – Zomick’s
    Baker recently posted…Zomick’sMy Profile

  12. Hope says

    This was delicious! It came out nice and creamy with great flavor. However, mine needed way more cooking time… an additional hour, in fact. I had even cut the squash up into smaller pieces that what the recipe said. Will definitely make it again, but plan more cooking time. (And it makes a LOT!)

    • says

      I’m so glad you liked it Hope! I’m sorry the cook times were wrong for you, that’s good info to have. Do you have an older slow cooker? I ask because I’ve heard that can be a problem sometimes. I just made this again last week (I wrote the recipe over a year ago) and the times were the same for me, but obviously I was making it in the same crock pot. Thank you for your comment, I will change the recipe to say that some crockpots may take longer!

  13. says

    I just had to come and leave you a comment on this post! I clicked on this recipe from Pinterest and you are a dead ringer for a friend of mine in town. Twin sister from another mother? I did a double-take! Aside from that, I adored your baby photos, and I tell you what: I had a preemie who was 3.5 pounds when I brought her home, and I had to feed her every three hours (that was timing from the start of feeding to the next) and it took me an hour and a half just to get through a feeding, both breasts and supplemental bottle feding. I was a zombie and thank goodness for family members who would let me sleep for more than an hour and a half between feedings a few times a day and finger-fed her from a bottle. (She was even too small for a bottle nipple). I did not have any time in the world to worry about whose camp was in whose at that time in my life. My daughter is now 17 and graduating from high school this spring with a 4.0 GPA and off to college this fall, and aside from being small at the start she’s excelled in everything she has ever done and is totally healthy! Long story short, live your life and love your kids and never-mind the noise. xoxo
    KathrynR recently posted…The Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup ExperimentMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by Kathryn! That’s so funny that I look like your friend! Funny how that happens sometimes. And thanks for telling me your premie story! 3.5 pounds at home, gah!! Scary. I would be so nervous. I’m glad she grew so well! My baby is almost 4 months. I’m still breastfeeding but we do 4 ounces of formula every night before bed and that is really when she started to gain. (I just posted a photo of her on Instagram stories, you can check it out if you want. She’d getting so big!) It’s such a relief. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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