Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods, but one squash (average 3 pounds?) is a lot of squash for two people. Here, I’ve detailed the life of one such squash in my kitchen, and how it fed us.
When purchasing butternut, look for a long firm neck. The bulb is the least interesting part, with more watery flesh.
Prepare the squash by first removing the bulb from the neck. Slice off the stem end. Quarter the neck and halve the bulb, scooping out the seeds.
Place the pieces of squash in a microwaveable dish with a scant 1/4 inch of water in the bottom. Cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 12 to 15 minutes until tender. (I opt for microwaving over roasting because I don’t want to dry out the flesh of the squash. If you don’t have a microwave, steam the squash pieces over simmering water until tender.)
Let the squash cool and then strip the peel away, releasing the flesh into a medium bowl.
MAKE THE SOUP. In a medium saucepan, wilt 2 chopped shallots in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss in a large sprig of thyme and a healthy pinch of salt. Add 2 cups of squash, 2 small pears (peeled and cored and cut into chunks) and 3 cups of water or broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Discard the thyme.
Taste and add more salt and some ground black pepper as needed. Whir the soup in the blender until smooooooooth. Pour it back into the pot and thin with more water or broth if needed. Taste, salt, pepper, taste, and so on. Keep warm.
In the meantime, tear a few pieces of crusty bread into croutons. In a wide skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, add 2 garlic cloves and cook until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove the garlic and add the pieces of bread. Toss around until crisped, shiny, and browned here and there.
Serve the soup with the croutons and a big spoonful of diced pear.
MAKE THE SCONES. There is not a single recipe anywhere that can compete with Mrs. Larkin’s Butternut Scones from Food52. I make them all fall and winter and you should, too. Make them and freeze them. Bake them in your toaster oven directly from the freezer while the coffee brews and the dogs get fed.
MAKE THE TORTELLINI. Do you make pasta at home? It’s a great skill to have in your back pocket. Domenica Marchetti offers classes. She’s a superb teacher and her pasta dough recipe is great. With the last cup or so of butternut squash puree, I made a small batch of pasta dough (125 g 00 flour + 2 eggs) and, because I was feeling very low-tech, rolled it out by hand. I found this experience JOYFUL. If you don’t, use a pasta maker.
I formed these plump tortellini after I watched an episode of the Pasta Grannies to get started. It was so fun! And so satisfying. The filling is a combination of sauteed red onion, thyme, nutmeg, squash, and pecorino cheese.