When I make soup with pumpkin, I usually gravitate to curry flavors. My favorite pumpkin soup recipe, for example, includes an apple, peanut butter, and plenty of curry. Although I live on a diet that is approximately 35% butternut squash during the fall, there are some things that I do not understand about the way that many like to cook with the king (or queen?) of fall produce. Number one on my list is sweet soups. Cinnamon, brown sugar, and maple syrup with butternut squash in soup form is just not very tasty, despite the sugar. There are so many recipes that really dull down the mellow squash flavor and play up sugar. Butternut has so much to offer the tastebuds on its own, especially if you roast it first to really bring out its full flavor.
Fall is the best season of all to explore the farmer's market. I went yesterday and picked up some Jerusalem artichokes, butternut squash, eggplant, and purple sweet potatoes. I used the butternut squash to make this fantastic, Italian-inspired take on butternut squash soup. We took one little tag-along with us to the farmer's market and she rested from her big adventure while the soup was simmering away.
In this soup, I broke tradition for myself (it's curry-free), and for those of you who may be used to bland, thin butternut squash soups that contain tons of butter and heavy cream. I love butter and heavy cream
much more than as much as the next girl, but keep all of that away from my squash! Nobody puts butternut in a corner, not even you, butter.
The flavors in this soup are more robust, Italian-inspired, and acidic (although the soup still maintains that creamy goodness that butternut does so well). I used tomatoes, Italian-inspired spices like thyme and oregano, and a good dollop of pesto to form the major flavor components. I don't think that the flavors are overpowering or "bold" by any means, and I think that the butternut squash is still on center stage, which is right where it belongs.
Italian Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup
Yields ~8 servings
You will need:
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 leek, thoroughly washed
- 1 tbsp. garlic
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus a little bit more
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock (low sodium)
- 1/2 tsp. each oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne (adjust to taste)
- 1 can evaporated milk or coconut milk
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto
- Preheat the oven to 400. Cut unpeeled butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and stringy bits from the bulbs. Drizzle slightly with olive oil. Place face-down (i.e. mounded, unpeeled side up) on a baking sheet. Cook for 35-40 minutes, then let cool for another 15 minutes. Discard skins.
- Start to cook the rest of the soup in the 15 minutes that the squash takes to cool,
- Heat the garlic in olive oil on medium in a large pot.
- Prepare the leek by washing thoroughly. Discard green leafy pieces. Thinly slice the white-light green "stalk" of the leek into small pieces. Add leeks to pot. Cook for about 8 minutes, until leeks have cooked down and are mainly clear.
- Once the butternut squash is cool and skins are removed, scoop out the center into the pot. Add tomatoes, spices and chicken stock.
- Cook for 20 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add in pesto and evaporated milk or coconut milk. Cook for approximately 10 more minutes, until evenly heated.
- Use a hand-held immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a food processor) to puree the soup to your liking. Serve hot, with an extra drizzle of pesto, if desired.