“Phenomenal” Butternut Squash and Leek Soup. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Just back from great Chefs Collaborative event in Charleston, SC, and now must head to Vegas, my favorite city on earth (not—but a call from an old friend presented an offer I couldn’t refuse), then on to book events in New York and Miami. So I’m not doing much cooking, or blogging. But I love this soup, which I posted about last year, and it represents a good basic technique for any soup like it. November is the perfect month to make it, especially here in the Midwest with a cold, wet front about to move through, and it’s a great nutritious meal to cook for your family. —M.R.

Weekend before last, I bought, among other things, a butternut squash at the farmers’ market. I had not intended to buy it, but it beckoned. It is fall. It is time to cook fall things. Such as duck confit, and sausage, and bacon, and cassoulet. And rich, soul-soothing soups.

Squash soup is easy, nutritious, and delicious. I served it to a bunch of eighth-grade boys. One of them said, “This is phenomenal soup.” I was surprised they were eating it, let alone using the word “phenomenal” with regard to food.

This recipe will work with any similar squash (pumpkin would be great). Use onion if you don’t have leeks. The method is standard: sweat the onion in some fat, salt it, add the squash, cook it a little, add enough half-and-half to cover, simmer till the squash is tender. Purée, taste for seasoning, and perfect it—you may want to add some lemon juice or white wine vinegar; taste and think.

I took some extra time to clean and sauté the seeds in some butter for a crunchy garnish. Fresh or whole, dried thyme leaves are the key to the flavor of this soup (don’t use the old, powdered thyme sitting in your spice rack). I still have fresh thyme in the garden and that makes a good finishing garnish, and last, some yogurt, which I always have on hand (high point of last week: my Indian neighbor came over to ask for some starter as hers had gone bad, which happens, and she knows yogurt; I’m glad ours didn’t go bad at the same time).

Soup is a technique in Ruhlman’s Twenty, as is sauce, and this could easily be the sauce for the scallop dish (we’re in prime scallop season—lucky East-coasters are, anyway). I love how soups and sauces are often interchangeable. I’d never serve a bowl of Sauce Robert, or a bowl of Hollandaise, but most thick, puréed soups can be used as sauces. What a killer use of leftover butternut squash soup that would be.

Butternut Squash & Leek Soup

  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and julienned (save dark green parts for stock)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons or so for the seeds (if using)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, cut in large dice, seeds reserved
  • 2 teaspoons whole dried thyme leaves (not powdered thyme; this is critical)
  • 1 quart half-and-half (you won’t use it all; you can get by with 2 cups if you wish)
  • 1/2 cup Greek or homemade yogurt, crème fraîche, or mascarpone
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  1. Sauté the leeks in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until they’re soft, hitting them with a big four-finger pinch of salt (a teaspoon for the ladies who are measuring).
  2. Sauté the rinsed reserved seeds in the remaining 2 teaspoons butter till golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes over high, then low heat.
  3. Add the squash and the dried thyme to the leeks and stir to heat through for a few minutes. Add just enough half-and-half to cover the squash. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium-low for 15 minutes or so.
  4. Purée the squash in a blender (or in the pot with an immersion blender) till uniformly smooth.
  5. Serve garnished as you like with yogurt, toasted seeds, and fresh thyme.

Serves 8

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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9 Wonderful responses to “Holiday Classic: Butternut Squash Soup”

  • Dean

    I have been making butternut squash soups for years. Feel free to experiment. Substitute good home made vegetable or chicken stock instead of half-and-half; add your favorite curry spices to the onions or leeks; peel a couple of apples and add them to the mix; use a big pinch of cumin and smaller one of cayenne. When I use stock instead of milk or half-and-half, I garnish the soup with yogurt, sour cream or lebneh.

    The marriage of thyme and butternut squash will last forever; so I use it as the key flavoring agent when I make the soup at Thanksgiving each year.

  • Dan

    Roasting the squash along with some garlic until they are both soft and then pureeing it all with the sauted leeks or onion and stock and cream adds a nice touch, as does some good smoky chipotle. We’ve used leftovers butternut squash soup as the base for a corn and potato chowder with some success…especially with a bit of chorizo added to the mix.

  • Stephanie Henson

    If given a choice, would you rather use the immersion blender, or the stand blender. I’d like to know which would yield the smoothest soup. My heart says my Vita Mix would, but I’d prefer the ease of the handheld.

  • baydog

    I love the vast, vast majority of what you post, but Butternut squash soup seems so obligatory to me this time of year. Baby food. Pumpkin risotto pisses me off too. Unless you put a slab of seared foie gras on top

  • Jessica ( Burlap and Butter Knives)

    This looks delicious, and like something I might be able to actually eat right now. Unfortunately that is a VERY small list. So, this soup is going on my to make list and I am most definitely looking forward to your stop in New York!!! :-)

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