Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Besides the fact that it is 80 degrees here in Charlotte most days, in my heart fall is in full swing. One of my favorite things that come with cooler weather is the food. Soup ranks high on the list of comfort foods I crave as the leaves start to change. The options are endless in the soups and stews world and I am always trying to find my next seasonal staple to add to the menu.

Over the weekend I was reading Food & Wine magazine and came across a butternut squash soup recipe that incorporated bacon. I didn’t love the rest of the ingredient list, but i loved the idea of bacon. What came out of that idea was this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. The name is somewhat lackluster, but I couldn’t make it Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup with Candied Pancetta. I guess I could have, but I am pretty sure blog titles have a character limit. Anyway…

This soup is heavenly, y’all. It is everything I wanted and more – roasted winter squash and red pepper combined with candied pancetta and thyme make a rich, hearty soup that has a decadent depth to it. I don’t know what is on your menu this weekend, but I would *strongly* consider throwing this together if you have the same love affair with fall and soups as I do.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Winter squash seasoning blend (see NOTES below)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. diced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 13.5 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • Cracked black pepper and sea salt
  • Fresh thyme leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Scatter butternut squash, red bell pepper, and onion evenly on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with homemade squash seasoning blend or seasoning blend of choice. Roast 45 minutes to 1 hour; until vegetables are soft, browned, and fragrant. Take vegetables out of oven and allow to cool slightly (5-10 minutes is all you need). Then, transfer vegetables to a bowl and puree using an immersion blender. Set aside.

Knock oven down to 325 degrees. Melt butter in Dutch oven or oven safe large pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and pancetta, stirring frequently until pancetta crisps. Add brown sugar and saute until brown sugar caramelizes; this creates what I describe as a “candied” pancetta. Stir in butternut and bell pepper puree, coconut milk, whole milk, and chicken stock. Add red pepper flakes, cayenne, pepper, salt, and thyme. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake on 325 for 1 ½ to 2 hours; until soup is thick and creamy.

Serve warm; garnish with desired toppings.

NOTES:

  • My winter squash seasoning blend consists of 1/2 Tbsp. Himalayan pink sea salt, 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes, 1/12 Tbsp. dried thyme, and 3 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning blend.
  • If you don’t have pancetta, bacon is a great substitute! Both come from the pork belly – however bacon is usually a heartier and smokier than pancetta. If using bacon as substitute, cut amount down to 5 oz.
  • This recipe is time consuming, but I personally feel like the time enhances the depth and complexity of flavors in the end result.
  • If you want to use an Instapot in lieu of the Dutch oven, simply caramelize the bacon/brown sugar/garlic on saute mode and then set to slow cooker mode for 1:30-2 hours once you have combined the soup.

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