Food & Wine ~ Sarah Stierch

Sarah Stierch Sarah Stierch is the Food + Drink Editor of the Sun (with occasional visits to other areas of the paper). Stierch has eaten, drunk, and written her way through 13 countries and the hottest food trends and communities in the USA. She's also a racing and travel geek, venturing beyond food/booze to cover subjects that connect to Sonoma Valley, such as IndyCar racing and other wine making regions. Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, the Independent, Salon, Gawker, Smithsonian and on National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


In season: butternut squash

Posted on October 13, 2015 by Sarah Stierch
Butternut squash soup with pancetta (Photo: John Kernick)
Butternut squash soup with pancetta (Photo: John Kernick)

It’s fall! Huzzah!

With fall comes winter squash, most notably butternut squash. It’s a funny shape, grows fast, and is filling up farmers’ markets left and right in Sonoma Valley. You can chop it up and add it to risotto, roast it in the oven, make gnocchi with it, and so many other fabulous things – all with the famed flavor of fall.

One of my favorite things on earth is butternut squash soup. It’s like a big warm blanket of sweet, soupy goodness. Add bacon, or pancetta, and well, you know the way to my fall food heart.

This super easy recipe will impress a date, fill up your family’s bellies, or provide you a week of tasty gourdy goodness to warm your heart and soul. It’s a classic, created by famed Chef Tom Valenti, of New York City’s Ouest Restaurant. It was published in Food & Wine in 2003. It is a staple of my recipe book.

Here is what you will need:

  • 4 medium butternut squashes (6 lbs.)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 12 super thin slices of pancetta (3 oz.)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 2 quarts of chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • kosher salt
  • ground pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Proceed to halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheep, cut sides up. Put a piece of butter in each cavity and season generously with salt and pepper. Drape the squash halves with the pancetta slices. Roast the squash for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tender.

2. When the squash is ready, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain. Crumble and set aside. Scoop the squash out of the skins into a bowl.

3. In a large, heavy stockpot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add 3 of the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Stir in the squash and the stock and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Pick out and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree until thick and creamy-smooth, about 1 minute per batch. Transfer the soup to a clean saucepan. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper.

5. Reheat the soup if necessary. Ladle into 12 bowls. Garnish the soup with the pancetta, the leaves from the remaining 3 thyme sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.

6. Eat all the delicious soup, preferably with cozy blankets and the fireplace crackling in the background.

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