Instead of the usual creamy, rich puréed style of butternut squash soup (which I adore), we wanted a heartier version that could stand on its own as a meal, and we found just that in our latest edition of Cooks Illustrated Magazine with Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup with Sage Pesto. They say, adding butter to the stock at the start of its simmering time allows it to fully emulsify, giving the soup base richness and a more velvety texture. A swirl of sage pesto, quickly made in the food processor, lends the right bright, fresh finish.
For the best texture, it’s important to remove the fibrous white flesh just below the squash’s skin. Easier said than done. That being the case, we bought it already cubed. My mama didn’t raise no fool! However, you are supposed to cook the unused “neck” of the squash with the leeks and tomato paste in a separate skillet. Personally we don’t think the soup suffered any ill affects without the neck.
For the pesto, roasted pine nuts were used in place of walnuts, because the Mr. despises them. This version of pesto calls for some fresh sage leaves, which we had an abundance of growing in our herb garden. That is, until Russ forgot it was going to be used for one of our weeknight recipes and cut most of it down to dehydrate a few days prior. I was going to substitute some dried, but when I ventured out to the garden, I was able to salvage enough to make it work since we were cutting the pesto recipe in half—which was plenty, by the way.
In a “senior moment” I neglected to add the grated parm to the pesto. When it was done being processed, I got this niggling feeling that something just wasn’t right with it, but let it go to pay attention (or so I thought) to the soup base. Minutes before the soup was to be served, I noticed the 1/4 cup of grated parm sitting on the counter and quickly threw the pesto back into the mini-processor and pulsed it with the cheese. And what good pesto it was!
Here’s how the pesto looked before I realized it was missing the grated parm.
Once the cheese was added, the pesto is much more robust!
Oh, and the final faux pas was I only added one can of cannellini beans when the recipe called for three cans. During dinner I commented that the soup would benefit from more than one can of beans, and Russ agreed. Then he said, “Well how many did you put in, because I thought you were supposed to add three cans?” With that, I grabbed the written recipe, and sure enough, it was indeed three!
No sweat, with half the soup still left in the pot, I opened another can of beans and tossed them in. So our leftovers ended up with the right consistency. What can I say, it had been a long stressful workday, and this was NOT one of those 30-minute meals…
PESTO (we cut this recipe in half)
- ½ cup walnuts (or pine nuts), toasted
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- ½ cup fresh sage leaves
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup), plus extra for serving
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (2- to 2 ½ pound) butternut squash
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Sliced leeks are cooked with a tablespoon of tomato paste.
To keep the cover partially open, we insert a wooden spoon.
The amount of beans was obviously lacking, and had I consulted with the recipe, I would have seen that three cans were required, duh…
FOR THE PESTO:
- Pulse walnuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 5 pulses. Add parsley and sage; with processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Transfer to bowl, stir in Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
FOR THE SOUP:
- Using sharp vegetable peeler or chef’s knife, remove skin and fibrous threads just below skin from squash (peel until squash is completely orange with no white flesh remaining, roughly 1/8 inch deep). Cut round bulb section off squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds; cut each half into 4 wedges.
- Bring squash wedges, broth, water, butter, and soy sauce to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer vigorously until squash is very tender and starting to fall apart, about 20 minutes. Using potato masher, mash squash, still in broth, until completely broken down. Cover to keep warm; set aside.
- While broth cooks, cut neck of squash into 1/3-inch pieces. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks have softened and tomato paste has darkened, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squash pieces, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add squash broth and bring to simmer. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add beans and their liquid, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing pesto and extra Parmesan separately.