Butternut Squash Soup with Sage-Cashew Pesto
If you visit Discovery Cooking very often, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Page and Dornenburg’s Flavor Bible. Whenever I have an idea for a recipe, that book is one of the first places I look for inspiration. This butternut squash soup is just one example of how that goes. I knew I wanted to make a butternut squash soup with some squash I picked up at the farmer’s market, but I also wanted something a little different. A quick look at the Flavor Bible and I had the flavor profile I was looking for: butternut squash+bacon+maple+sage.
To get there I used a pretty standard soup base of red onions and stock. (I’ve made this with both chicken and vegetable stock, and while I prefer the chicken stock, a good homemade veggie stock is every bit as good.) The rest is pretty straightforward, but for the addition of the maple syrup, which really sends this soup over the top, although I found that it was necessary to add a little cider vinegar to brighten up the flavors at the end. This recipe yielded between 3 and 4 quarts of soup. Enough for a lunch or dinner with plenty for the freezer. It scales pretty well, so it’s easy to make more or less, as needed.
As for the pesto, while I can’t recall seeing a sage pesto anywhere, it just seemed like the right thing to do, here. I originally planned to use pine nuts in the pesto, but it turned out the pantry was missing pine nuts and it was too much bother to make a trip to the grocery just for them. Roasted cashews have a similar texture and their own distinctive flavor so I thought I’d give them a shot. I’m happy I did. They worked really well.
This recipe could easily be converted to a vegetarian version by using olive oil instead of bacon fat and using the veggie stock. I suspect the result would be a little different, but perhaps not hugely so. The bacon flavor here is subtle, compared to the squash and sage and maple. If you give it a try that way, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you.
- 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup roasted cashews
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- 3-4 strips bacon
- 2 cups red onions
- 1 Tbsp. dried sage
- 2 tsp. nutmeg
- 3 medium butter nut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1-2 Tbsp. cider vinegar or lemon juice
- For the pesto, combine sage leaves, cashews, garlic, cheese, and olive oil in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add a little more olive oil if necessary to get a loose consistency, taste and add salt as needed. Set aside. (Note: This can be done a day or two ahead of time.)
- Cook the bacon in the bottom of a large stock pot until well browned. Remove and set aside.
- Cook the onions in the bacon fat until they just start to soften.
- Add the sage and nutmeg and cook for one to two minutes more, stirring to combine the ingredients.
- Add in the squash and stir again, then stir in enough stock to just cover the squash along with the maple syrup.
- Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then puree in a food processor or blender in batches.
- Return the pureed soup to the stock pot and bring back to a low simmer. Taste, adjust seasoning and then add the vinegar or lemon juice to taste.
- Serve hot with a dollop of the pesto in each bowl. You can also chop up the bacon into small pieces and use as a garnish, as well.
- For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use olive oil instead and use vegetable stock rather than chicken stock. This recipe also scales up or down very well.