Soup isn’t typically a dish that comes to mind during hot weather spells. But I couldn’t help myself when I saw this fiber-rich recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). So on a rare cool, cloudy day in mid-summer, I spent some afternoon time preparing this Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup with Sage Pesto, with the intentions of having it for dinner on the following night.
Instead of the usual creamy, rich, puréed style of butternut squash soup, this heartier version can stand on its own as a meal. It features chunks of squash paired with creamy cannellini beans to give the soup some heft.
Because the bulb portion of the squash is difficult to cut into cubes that will cook evenly, and because it naturally cooks faster than the dense neck portion, ATK suggests cutting the bulb into wedges, cook them in the broth until soft, and then mash them to make a “squash stock”—giving the soup base body and flavor.
A swirl of freshly-made sage pesto made in a mini food processor, lends the right bright, fresh finish. The pesto is so good, you may be tempted to eat it directly from the bowl. If you have any leftover, use it as a condiment on any number of other edibles; or stir into pasta.
Since The Hubs detests walnuts, I opted to use pine nuts—a common ingredient in pesto. If you are intent on keeping it vegetarian, use vegetable broth. Keep in mind, whatever stock you use, a homemade version is always a better bet because of the depth of flavor it offers.
Purchasing precut chunks of squash allows for ease of preparation although you may have to dice some of those chunks into 1⁄2-inch pieces for Step 5. To bulk up the meal further, serve with a slice of toasted crusty rosemary olive oil loaf.
Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup with Sage Pesto
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- ½ cup fresh sage leaves
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 oz. (1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for serving
- Salt and pepper
- 1 2- to 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash
- 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade; or vegetable stock
- 3 cups water
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 3 15-oz. cans cannellini beans
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- Grated Parm for serving
- FOR THE PESTO: Pulse pine nuts 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, 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. (For a creamier base, you may want to use an immersion blender.)
- While broth cooks, cut neck of squash into 1/2-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.
Adapted from a recipe by Steve Dunn for America’s Test Kitchen