There are wonderful butternut squash available in the local markets, and today, cool and sunny, is a perfect day to prepare this tasty soup!
It’s what I’m having tonight!!
Yield: Serves 4-6.
1 (2 to 3-pound) butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
4 medium shallots, peeled and left whole
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 ounces pancetta (about 12 paper-thin slices), diced
1 cup diced leeks, white part only (about 1 large leek)
1/3 cup finely diced carrots (about 1 small carrot)
1/3 cup finely diced celery (about 1 small stalk celery)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon dry white wine, of drinkable quality
2 quarts rich chicken or vegetable stock, plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste*
Splash of sour cream and/or hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Canola oil for frying
1/4 cup sage leaves
Fine sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat the squash and shallots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season generously with salt. Place the squash and shallots onto the lined baking sheet and roast until the squash and shallots are tender when pierced with a skewer or the tip of a small knife, about 40-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat; add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat through. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Remove from the heat, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside until needed.
Return the pan to the heat and add the leeks, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sage and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan (deglaze). Cook until the wine has evaporated, then add the stock.
Scrape the squash pulp from the skin and add the pulp, the shallots (scraping up any browned bits) and honey to the pan; bring the stock to the boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup completely. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and honey as desired. Keep the soup warm until service. (This is where you’d add the splash of sour cream to taste, if desired.)
For the Sage: In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat 1-inch of oil to 365°F; fry the sage in batches, stirring to separate the leaves, until crisp, about 3 to 5 seconds. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain; season with fine sea salt while still hot.
For Serving: Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls or cups. Top each serving with some of the crispy pancetta and a few fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.
*The honey doesn’t sweeten up the soup; it just enhances the caramel flavor of the roasted squash.