Winter Squash Soup with Arugula Pesto


This simple soup from East Atlanta Village Farmers Market chef Seth Freedman allows the flavor of fresh winter squash to shine through. The addition of cream and a swirl of arugula pesto dresses it up for company. Feel free to substitute pumpkin, delicata, or other winter squashes for the butternut or acorn. For the pesto, you could use parsley or spinach (or a combination) instead of arugula, and walnuts or pecans instead of almonds.

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 2-pound butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced
4 cups (or more) vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup cream (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Arugula Pesto, see below

Arugula Pesto:
1/2 cup almonds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup hard cheese, such as Parmesan, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat; add butter or oil. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash begins to sweat, about 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add stock; if vegetables are not covered in liquid, add more to cover. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until squash is fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Working in small batches, puree solids in a blender (do not fill more than halfway, and be very careful to not allow hot ingredients to splash) and return to the pot. Add more stock if necessary to reach desired consistency. Add cream if desired, and season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle in bowls and swirl with 1 to 2 tablespoons arugula pesto.

3. For the arugula pesto: Place the garlic and almonds together in a food processor with a blade attachment. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the arugula and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cheese and pulse just to incorporate. Then turn on the processor, and with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

Makes 8 servings.