The Soup From Heaven
We all have our favorite recipes, those we make over and over. Butternut Squash soup is at the top of that list for me. As soon as the leaves begin turning color and there's a nip in the air, I start making this and it becomes a regular menu item around here until spring. It also has a reputation. I've given the recipe out countless times and everyone who's had it, loves it. Packaged in jars, along with a loaf of homemade bread, it makes a nice gift at Christmas. The last recipient said she needed the recipe because her husband thought this soup was from heaven. Now, that's quite a compliment for a pot of soup made from a humble squash. I know people who make it and take it to the sick, because with every bite you feel yourself getting a little better. It's super healthy. And my dear friend who fought and finally succumbed to cancer asked for it when she could eat nothing else. In my mind, this will always be Carol's soup. I've made it for luncheons, and once for an apostle. That was an honor.
I will admit that it takes a little time and effort to put together. But, it's so worth it! It's cutting up that squash that makes it a labor of love, although, I understand you can buy squash already cut up at some grocery stores. I'm blessed to have had a bumper crop of squash this year, so I'll be cutting my own. And once you have that job done, it's easy as can be.
To make the soup: Peel and remove the seeds.
Cut peeled squash into chunks. Set aside.
I use pancetta in this soup. Pancetta is an Italian bacon that's cured with salt and spices, but not usually smoked like traditional bacon. You can substitute a good thick sliced bacon if you don't have the pancetta. But try the pancetta if you can. It's so good!
Dice the pancetta into small pieces and add to your soup pot, along with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Over a low heat, brown the bacon and then remove to a small plate. Hide it, or you might not have enough to add to the soup later on.
While the pancetta is cooking, peel and dice an apple or maybe two, if they are on the small side.
Dice a shallot or half of a small onion and mince a clove of garlic.
Make sure and leave all the rendered fat in the pot after you take out the pancetta, and then add the diced shallot. Cook until tender. At this point, add the squash, give it a stir and then let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes, so the squash gently browns on one side. Stir and let it brown a little on the other side.
Add the apple, garlic, sage and chicken broth. Cover and cook until squash is tender, stirring every so often and adding more stock or water if needed.
When the squash is easily pierced with a fork, remove from heat and puree in a blender. I do this in several batches. If you have a stick blender, you could do this right in the pot, but I like the silky texture of the soup when I process it in the blender. I blend part of the pancetta with the soup and reserve some for garnish.
Return the soup to the pot and add cream, half and half, more stock or water as needed to bring the soup to a nice consistency. This is where you get creative and add what you like. I normally use half and half, but I've been making it with coconut milk this past month and I like it that way too. Sometimes I add a little butter and let that melt, because you know, butter makes everything just a tad bit better.
If you want to get all fancy, you can garnish each bowl with some of that pancetta, and chopped nuts. Maybe a little brown sugar would be nice. Enjoy this heavenly soup!
Butternut Squash Soup
3-4 slices pancetta
1 T. olive oil
large shallot or 1/2 of a small onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium - large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 1/2 T. freshly chopped sage or 1t. dried sage
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream or half and half
(can also use coconut milk)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pancetta until crisp. Transfer to a plate with
paper towel. Add onion or shallot to pan and cook
until softened. Add squash and let it sit undisturbed for
a few minutes, so it can brown. Stir and let it continue
to brown. Stir in apple, garlic, sage and broth. Scrape
browned bits from bottom of pan. Bring to boil and then
reduce and simmer until squash is tender. Stir occasionally
and add more broth or water as needed. Remove from
heat. Puree in blender (or using stick blender), adding
some of the pancetta. Reserve some for topping.
Return pureed soup to pot and on low heat add cream,
half and half or move stock as desired. You can also
add some butter and brown sugar if you like your soup
on the sweeter side. Top the bowls with pancetta,
chopped pecans and brown sugar if desired.
Photo Credit: Travis Wray