Even with boots, chilly weather, and blog posts about pumpkins, to me, it’s not officially fall until I make a batch of butternut squash soup. For one thing, it’s easy, filling, and oh-so healthy. But the soup’s gorgeous, saturated orange color? The way it warms you from the inside out? Fall. Totally fall.
Butternut squash soup is great in that it’s simple on its own, but you can zhush it up with garnishes and other add-ins to make it fancier. It’s also the perfect thing if you’re looking for a vegan/vegetarian friendly recipe — there’s definitely no rule that says you have to include chicken stock or cream in it!
Below is a version I made on Monday night to bring for lunches throughout the week. I like making my soup with something to add just a touch of sweetness. This time, instead of apples, I used two pears that were on their last leg. Along with a sweet potato and some regular potatoes to help thicken things up, this soup was SO satisfying. Feeling fancy? You could dress it up with a dollop of crème fraîche, or swirl some cream right into the soup once you’ve heated it. I’m guessing a garnish of chives and crumbled bacon would also not be horrible. I’ve tried butternut squash soup with toasted hulled pumpkin seeds on top, too — it’s really good!
Simple Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8 (at least)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium sized butternut, peeled and diced
–kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp if you are using fresh
1 dried bay leaf
2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (could substitute apples, too)
1 large orange sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced (you could also substitute Yukon gold or russet — whatever you have)
2 quarts vegetable stock
In a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in the onion and the diced squash, then season well with salt and pepper. Stir and let sweat, until the onions are softened and beginning to turn translucent. Pour in the white wine and stir. Add in the thyme, the bay leaf, the pears, the potatoes and the stock. Gently stir, and season well with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and let cook for half an hour, or until the largest pieces of potato or squash are very tender. Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is velvety smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can add batches of the soup to a blender and process. Be careful not to add too much; work in small batches so as not to accidentally burn yourself. Taste the pureed soup and adjust the seasonings.
Serve hot with the garnishes of your choice.
Also, here’s a quick tutorial on how to cut up a butternut squash. No need to be intimidated by their strange shape and hard skin!
1. Of all the winter squashes, I think butternuts have the thinnest skin. I used to cut away the skin with a knife, but I hated how much squash I’d lose (and I almost chopped off my finger a time or two). A few years ago when I was recipe testing for a local newspaper, a chef showed me how I could just peel it with a sturdy vegetable peeler (I like the Good Grips one from OXO), and I’ve never looked back. It’s much safer, and you get more squash that way. You can also cut the squash in half first (see below) if it’s easier for you to peel it this way.
2. Once you’ve peeled the butternut, cut it crosswise where the base of the squash starts to balloon or bell out. This is approximately where the seeds are.
3. Cut both pieces in half; this will make them more manageable to cut down further. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds out and discard any of the stringy pulp.
4. If you’re cubing the squash like I was for the soup, cut the longer part into planks, then into sticks, then into cubes. You can cut the round part of the squash into half circles, then dice from there.
Presto! Your squash is all cut up and ready to go, and you didn’t slice off your hand trying to deal with it.