This sweet, creamy soup is like a bowl of liquid sunshine. It’s the perfect meal for a cold night—warm and comforting and filling. I always start my soup by roasting the squash, to give it a deep, caramelized flavor, along with some garlic. Then I cook both up with some shallots (which are a little sweeter than regular onions), some fresh garlic and ginger, and a few cups of stock. I run everything through my food processor until it’s nice and smooth, and then all I have to do is heat it all back up just before dinner. The whole process is so simple that I can easily make it on a busy day. Each step takes very little effort or attention. I don’t have to hover over the stove or watch the soup as it cooks. I can set a timer and work while the squash roasts, then leave the whole thing on the stove when it’s done and reheat it whenever I want.
My favorite squash for soup is Blue Hubbard, an heirloom variety that you don’t really see in markets much anymore. Katie Rose and I learned about it a couple years ago, when a farmer who came to our annual pumpkin patch asked if we had any available. It’s the best squash for pies and soups, he told us. We planted some the next year and immediately fell in love. Not only are they really creamy and flavorful, but they also keep really well all winter long. Now we grow a bunch of them for the whole family, and I store a few dozen in a cold room near the garden to use in everything from soup to curry to muffins.
If you can’t find Blue Hubbards, you can make this soup with a butternut squash or a kabocha—it will still be delicious. You could also opt to use regular onions instead of shallots or customize the finished soup with some curry powder or a quick hit of heavy cream. I like to serve it with some sautéed pine nuts on top or some grated cheese. Add some fresh bread, and you have the most comforting meal you could wish for. (Just make sure to save some; you’ll want it again for lunch the next day.)
Winter Squash Soup
(Makes 4–6 Servings)
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Active time: 30 minutes
- 1 Blue Hubbard squash, about 3 lbs, or an equal amount of another winter squash, like Butternut
- 1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 1” piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- Kosher salt to taste
- 4 cups broth (chicken broth, bone broth, and vegetable broth all work well)
Optional (for topping)
- Large handful of pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°. With a cleaver or a large chef’s knife, cut the squash into quarters. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then set the pieces cut side up on a baking sheet.
Cut the top off of the head of garlic, removing about ¼ of the bulb—just enough to expose the tops of the garlic cloves (see photo above). Pour 1 teaspoon of the olive oil onto the cut cloves, then wrap the whole head of garlic in aluminum foil. Set the wrapped garlic on the baking sheet with the squash.
Roast the squash until the flesh is fork-tender, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, unwrap the garlic, and let everything cool until it is not too hot to touch (about 15 minutes).
When the squash has cooled, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or a stock pot. Add the shallots and a large pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften and start to look transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until everything is golden brown, about 5 more minutes.
Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skin, and add it directly to the pot, then squeeze the roast garlic into the pot as well. Stir everything together, then add half of the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.
Pour the cooled ingredients into a food processor* or blender, and process them until the soup has a very smooth texture. (If you’re using a blender, make sure the soup is pretty cool, and hold the lid of the blender down with a kitchen towel so it doesn’t explode.) Return the soup to the pot, add the remaining 2 cups of broth, and bring everything to a simmer. Taste and add more salt as needed, then simmer the soup for another 15 minutes or so, until you’ve reached a consistency that you like.
To make the pine nut topping, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and add the pine nuts. Cook the pine nuts, stirring, until they’re a toasty, golden brown. Serve the soup with a scoop of pine nuts on top and a thick slice of hearty bread—or anything else that sounds good to you.
*I prefer a food processor, because I don’t have to worry about the hot liquid jumping out of the top, a problem you can run into when you put warm liquids into a blender.
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Photos by Elizabeth Poett