Pumpkins collapse into roasted sweetness after spending some time in the oven. I created this soup to celebrate the moment when their edges caramelize, and their skin is so tender that the weight of a knife is enough pressure for piercing. Certainly use this soup as an appetizer, but consider making it a meal with my recommendations at the end.
Unlike similar soups which are spiced with cinnamon or made sweet with apples, pumpkin carries this savory dish. At the end of the cooking process, a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper adds a pleasing spiciness that doesn’t overpower the base flavor. We often think of black pepper as the seasoning partner of salt, but it is an earthy spice that is perfect for the season.
3 ½ pound sugar pumpkin
Olive oil for brushing pumpkin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup half and half
For this recipe, make sure to select a sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin rather than the type you would use for carving. These smaller varieties are sweeter and have a better texture for cooking, which lead to a smoother and tastier soup.
Begin by preparing the pumpkin. Slice the very top off the pumpkin including the stem. Next slice the pumpkin in half vertically, and then cut each piece in half again so that you have four sections of pumpkin. Scoop the strings and seeds from each piece and reserve for roasting and snacking. A spoon generally will do the trick for cleaning the inside of the pumpkin, though you might first want to use your hands to remove large sections of the pulp. Keep scraping until the pumpkin flesh is clean or you just get tired of scraping. It’s ok. A few strings will not ruin the soup.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the flesh of each pumpkin quarter with olive oil and place skin side up on a baking sheet. Roast for about an hour, until the pumpkin flesh is fork-tender and the edges have begun to caramelize but not scorch.
Remove the tray from the oven. Your home should already smell like roasted pumpkin by now, and opening the oven door intensifies it even more, making everything warm and cozy. Rest assured that cleaning the pumpkin was the hardest part of making the soup, and from here on out, your pumpkin is soft and easy to handle.
Once the roasted pumpkin is cool enough to touch, peel the skin from the flesh. Place the peeled quarters in a bowl and use a potato masher or spoon to mash the pumpkin. Set aside.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and cook the diced shallots until translucent. Add the brown sugar, paprika, and nutmeg and cook for a minute longer. Next add the mashed pumpkin, wine, and 2 cups of the stock, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and cook at this temperature for a minute, then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook covered for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add ½ cup more of the stock, turn off the heat, and puree using an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. Alternately you can pour batches of the soup into a standing blender, puree, and return to the pot. If you prefer an extra smooth soup, you can strain it through a fine sieve, though I enjoy it as is.
Stir in the half and half and an additional ½ cup of the stock and heat through. While this is a thick and hearty pumpkin soup, it may require slightly more or less stock as pumpkins yield varying amounts of flesh. Proceed slowly if you decide to add more stock, as a thin pumpkin soup will not retain as much of the roasted vegetable flavor.
Season to taste with salt, and add a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper.
Top the soup with roasted pepitas and sour cream. A little bit of crunch and a touch of tanginess round out the dish so that it hits so many of my favorite notes. For those who want a tad more sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup does the trick.
As a main meal, serve with a hearty bread such as sourdough or pumpernickel, dried sausage, and cheeses.