Fall is fully upon us and I am in my soup eating glory. Seriously though, you come to my house and there is a guarantee to be two different types of soup in the fridge and a loaf of sourdough in the freezer. Besides being a quick and easy reheat for lunch when you have a toddler destroying your house, it's also a healthy alternative when a salad just isn't what you're craving. Or maybe the chilly weather's got you frozen from the inside out. Either way, you will not regret cooking up a batch of this delicious fall soup.
A few tips when shopping for ingredients -
- Get your pancetta from the deli. Pre-packaged cubed pancetta is usually available in the 'deli section' but it's much more affordable to get it from the deli counter. My recommendation is to buy it ½-pound at a time so if that particular cut of pancetta is fattier than usual you're not stuck with a whole pound. You will only need 2 ½-ounces for this recipe, which is about 2-3 slices, but pancetta has so many uses it's worth buying extra. Also, request the pancetta be cut ¼" thick which will make dicing it up for soups, sauces, or vegetables 1 million times easier (that's just a quick estimate.)
- Shoot for a 3-lb butternut squash, but it's okay if it ends up a little over or under. You will just have to adjust the final addition of chicken stock.
- If opting for store-bought chicken stock over homemade, buy the unsalted. Since pancetta is salty to start, you'll be able to control the final saltiness of the soup.
- If you can't find leeks, you can substitute a yellow onion. The leek provides a more subtle flavor so the butternut squash will really shine, but a yellow onion definitely work in a pinch!
My qualm with most butternut squash soups is they typically involve sweet flavors like apple or cinnamon or involve the addition of high calorie ingredients like cream. Not that there's anything bad about that, it's just not my thing. This soup is strictly a savory soup with flavors of fresh herbs and, okay, we add a few calories from pancetta. But, c'mon, Italian bacon makes everything better. When you're all simmered and ready to enjoy, I recommend some crunchy toasted bread to dip while baby Shea is partial to dipping chicken fingers...same, same right?
Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 leek (diced, root end and leaves removed)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ½ ounces pancetta (finely diced)
- 3 sprigs thyme
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 pounds butternut squash (peeled, seeds removed and cubed)
- 4 sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 8 cups unsalted chicken stock (see notes)
- In a large stock pot, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, leeks and thyme. Sauté about 10 minutes until pancetta is browned and leeks become translucent.
- Stir in white wine to deglaze the pan.
- Add butternut squash, sage, bay leaves, and 6 cups chicken stock. Cook on medium heat for about 1 hour, until squash is soft. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
- Add kosher salt, white pepper, and remaining 2 cups chicken stock. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Additional chicken stock can be added or held back depending on desired thickness.
- Substitute vegetable stock and leave out the pancetta for a vegan version.
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