Winter squashes can be found in stores year-round and, for the most part, are perfectly fine. But in the fall and winter, when they've been recently harvested, squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin truly shine.
These hearty squashes, known for their sweetness, tend to get starchier the longer they're off the vine, turning the flesh drier and less sweet as they are stored. That makes autumn, when they are at their best, the perfect time to work them into your meal rotation as much as possible.
One of the most popular ways to utilize these beauties is to incorporate them into a soup. These soups are often rich, creamy and puréed until silky smooth. While these versions are lovely and elegant, they aren't necessarily hearty enough to be a meal. They can also be cloying and overly sweet.
In an effort to explore a brothier and more savory version that could be satisfying enough for a meal, I landed on this week's Butternut Squash, Sausage and White Bean Soup.
While this soup is brothy, that broth is packed with squash flavor. That's achieved by simmering some of the squash in the broth and puréeing it before the other ingredients are added. Yes, it's an extra step, but it's an easy one and well worth the time, as it gives the soup a vibrant color and infuses every spoonful with the essence of butternut.
More squash is cubed and added to the butternut broth, along with cooked Italian sausage and canned white beans, which deliver a savory note along with a feeling of substance in the bowl. Chopped greens are stirred in at the end of the cooking process to give the soup a touch of brightness.
A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a loaf of crusty bread is all you need to complete this quick and easy autumnal meal.
Butternut Squash, Sausage and White Bean Soup
Note: Cooking some of the squash in the broth, and puréeing it before the rest of the ingredients are added, gives this brothy soup body without making it thick and heavy.This soup can be made completely ahead of time and frozen for up to 2 months.From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 1/2 lb., divided
• 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 6 c. homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
• 1⁄2 lb. (8 oz.) bulk Italian sausage
• 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
• 2 (15-oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 3 c. chopped Swiss chard, kale or baby spinach
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 tsp. cider vinegar
• Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Peel the squash and cut the rounded bulb end off. Cut the round part in half, remove seeds and cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve the neck end of squash).
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the stock and squash pieces (from the rounded bulb) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until squash is very tender. Using a blender, an immersion blender or food processor, purée the soup in batches and return to the Dutch oven. (If using a blender, to prevent the hot soup from splattering, fill only halfway, loosen the plastic insert in the top and cover with a dish towel.)
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Cut the reserved neck end of the squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Bring the squash stock to a simmer and add the squash cubes, sausage, beans, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash is tender. Stir in Swiss chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until wilted. Stir in vinegar. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or vinegar, if necessary.
Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at@meredithdeeds.