In my family, Thanksgiving dinner always begins with the primi piatti, or first course. It’s the Italian way. Don’t even try to slap a turkey, stuffing and some sides on the table without first serving some type of soup, pasta or risotto dish. But, let’s face it. Who could possibly ingest, much less savor, turkey and all of the trimmings after scarfing down a plate full of homemade manicotti or porcini risotto? Maybe that’s the reason why in Italian families, Thanksgiving dinner is usually an all day affair, with several “rest” periods between courses to enable diners to take short naps or walks around the block? That’s also why, if given the choice, I usually go for a soup.
When soup was on the holiday menu at our house, my mother usually made a big pot of Minestra Maritata, or Italian Wedding Soup. It’s a light, flavorful soup made with chicken stock, greens and little, tiny, light-as-air veal meatballs, and which by the way, has nothing to do with weddings. It was, and still is, a very popular dish, if not a predictable one. But, sometimes, I just want to stir things up and throw something unexpected into the mix. Here’s a dish that none of cooks in my Italian family would ever think of putting on their Thanksgiving table. None except me, that is.
My Roasted Butternut Soup is velvety, and fragrant, punctuated by the earthy flavors of sage, garam masala and ginger. It’s a savory soup that doesn’t suffer from the cloying sweetness that many winter squash dishes sometimes have. The squash is roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and tossed with the salt and spices to give it a warm, well-rounded depth of flavor. While there is some cream in this soup, I’ve reduced the amount to just enough to add a little richness while still letting the butternut squash shine through.
This dish is also relatively quick and easy to prepare. To make it even more so, you can roast the squash in advance and whip up the soup right before you’d like to serve it.
And, just look at how pretty it is all dressed up with some crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds!
If you’re looking for an elegant, delicious and no-fuss dish for your Thanksgiving table this year, look no further. This Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is for you!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
3 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium squash), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
5 large whole sage leaves
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Crispy sage leaves or toasted pepitas for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
1. Combine squash, olive oil, garam masala, ginger, salt and pepper in large bowl and mix until squash is well-coated. Arrange squash in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until soft and tender.
2. While squash is roasting, set a large pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic and sage, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion just turns golden, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the sage leaves and discard. Add the stock and roasted squash to the soup pot and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot. Stir in the cream and reheat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with crispy sage leaves and/or toasted pepitas.
Serves 8 as a first course.