Try this yummy colorful butternut squash soup recipe and you’ll never look back.
One of my favorite seasonal ingredients to cook with is the family of winter squashes. They are colorful, have a warm and slightly sweet flavor, are nutritious and are very flavorful. Winter squashes actually begin appearing in late summer and are bountiful in the markets through December. There are many varieties–the pale skinned Butternut squash, the deep blue-green Hubbards from New England, the deep green skinned or golden orange Acorns, and many others. The winter squashes and pumpkins are original to South America, and were introduced to North America by Columbus. Eventually, they appeared in Western Europe.
“Zucca,” which includes pumpkins and winter squashes in Italy, and “Potiron,” or pumpkins and squashes in France, are grown in various regions and in many varieties. In the Piedmont, or “Piemonte” region of Italy, Parma and Ferrara are famous for their very sweet and moist winter squashes, which appear as fillings in tender pasta pillows, ravioli, or in Cappellacci, or “little hats.” They may appear in a soup, or even in a sweet, such as a Pear-Butternut Squash Ginger Crumble. In Italian cuisine, you will find pasta sauces made with “zucca,” or risotto with tender cubes of butternut squash. In French cuisine, you may find “potiron” in soups or in gratins.
This year, I wanted an alternative to the ubiquitous Pumpkin Soup for holiday gatherings. I found a wonderful recipe by Chef Jacques Pepin, in his cookbook, More Fast Food My Way. His Velvet Soup is a savory soup made from Butternut Squash. I had a beautiful Butternut Squash on hand, with its pale golden skin and orange flesh. But, I also found an intriguing organic Red Kuri Squash at mu local Italian market, Mazzaro’s. It looked like a misshapen pumpkin but with a very deep orange exterior. It is a very hard squash, very difficult to peel or dice, so I halved it and roasted it cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until the halves were collapsing. Once I tasted the very flavorful, deep orange flesh, I decided to use half Butternut and half Red Kuri Squash to make Chef Pepin’s Butternut Squash Velvet Soup!
Butternut Squash Velvet, original recipe by Jacques Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, recipe paraphrased by me here, and slightly adapted
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 4 cups peeled, cubed Butternut Squash (I used 3 cups and I used the roasted flesh of one medium size Red Kuri Squash)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 3 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream (optional–it actually tastes fabulous without, so you decide)
- Roast the Red Kuri Squash halves cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until they are collapsing. Cool so that the flesh can be handled.
- Peel and cube the Butternut Squash.
- Clean and slice the leeks, white and light green parts, removing the tough dark green leaves.
- Dice the onion.
- Place the butter, oil, leeks and onion in a medium size soup pot and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent, a few minutes.
- Add the squashes and cook just to heat.
- Add the stock, salt, pepper, herb, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 12-15 minutes until the Butternut Squash is very tender.
- Use your immersion blender to blend the soup into a thick, creamy texture. You can use your blender, taking care to work in batches and to use the lid of the carafe.
- Taste and adjust seasonings and decide whether you wish to enrich it with the heavy cream. We loved it without.
This soup is richly flavored with the warm and somewhat spicy flavor of the squashes. The Red Kuri Squash is more richly flavored than Butternut, so I loved its contribution to the soup. The texture is very smooth and creamy and thick, even without the addition of heavy cream. Absolutely a knock-out!
I tried several options for garnish. I cut a triangular piece of Italian bread, brushed it with olive oil and then dipped it in finely chopped parsley. At my husband’s astute suggestion, I crisped a piece of prosciutto and topped a bowl of soup with it. The crisp texture and smoky, salty, porky flavor were an amazing complement to the soup. For one bowl, I drizzled some heavy cream on top and sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg to stir in as you taste, another great flavor addition. Finally, I garnished one bowl simply with fresh chives, standing at attention like little soldiers in the thick soup–lovely, mild onion fragrance and pretty color contrast!
Check out your local markets and explore the various varieties of winter squash while they are abundant. If you are looking for a richly flavorful Autumn soup, this is it!
Readers, share your favorite Fall and Winter soups and your experiences with this recipe if you try it. I’d love to hear about any winter squash varieties that you love and your favorite preparations!