Three crispy sage leaves, fried in brown butter, float on a sea of an unexpectedly light and creamy soup. When I first read the recipe, I half expected it to be an ordinary butternut squash soup with bits of Italian sausage milling about. Not so! The wonderful flavors of the sweet Italian sausage beautifully complement the delicate flavors of the butternut squash and fresh herbs. Pureeing the soup first in a blender and then straining it with a sieve creates a smooth and silky texture. This savory soup transforms fall meals from ordinary into extraordinary.
Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Soup
1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved, seeds removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus 12 whole leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
6 cups light chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, or more to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Lightly coat the squash halves with 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil. Season the inside with salt and pepper and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until very tender, about 45 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and reserve. Discard the peel.
3. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the remaining vegetable oil and, when hot but not smoking, add the sausage. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
4. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted and starting to caramelize, about 6 minutes.
5. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
6. Add the cooked squash and chicken stock, stir well to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. With a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender, puree the soup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepan.
8. Add the cider vinegar and stir to combine. Add the cream and adjust seasoning, to taste.
9. In a small sauté pan, cook the butter over medium-high heat until it begins to turn brown around the edges. Add the whole sage leaves and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the leaves to paper towels to drain.
10. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with the crispy sage leaves.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1. Make sure to bake the squash on a baking sheet with a rim, because as the squash bakes, it releases juice.
2. I used two links of Italian sausage. To make sure I was using the correct amount, I weighed them. Two links of the brand that I used weighed 8.25 ounces.
3. The next time I make this soup for my family, I might not go through the added work of straining the soup after running it through the blender. They won’t care if the soup is extra smooth or not. If I were making the soup for friends and had the time, I would probably go ahead and strain the soup.