I often don't bother to puree my butternut squash soup because I prefer a bit of texture. The crispy bits of prosciutto and gremolata topping add interesting flavors to this delicious winter soup.
1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lbs
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup lean prosciutto
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cardamom
a pinch or two cayenne
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half
2 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the squash onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Bake the squash for about an hour or until the flesh can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.
While the squash is baking in the oven, begin making the soup on the stove top.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and fry until crispy. Remove the prosciutto bits with a slotted spoon and reserve for later (leaving what remains of the olive oil and fat in the pot) .
Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot. Adjust the heat as needed and cook the vegetable mixture, stirring from time to time until softened. Stir in the thyme, cardamom and cayenne and cook for another minute or two.
Stir in the vegetable or chicken broth and bring the soup to a simmer. Set the heat to low and cover the pot until the squash is ready to add.
Using a spoon, scrape out the flesh from the baked squash. Discard the peel. Mash up the flesh with the spoon and then add it to the soup. You can puree the soup using an immersion blender if you like. I prefer my soup a bit chunky, so I don't bother with this step. Cook the soup (covered) for about 20 minutes.
Prepare the gremolata by combining the lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Stir the gremolata into the reserved prosciutto.
When you are ready to serve the soup, stir in the half and half and cook for another minute or two. Check and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Divide the soup between 4 bowls. Sprinkle each with the prosciutto and gremolata mixture.