The Handoff: Creamy Winter Squash Soup with Castelmagno d’Alpeggio Cheese
by Valeria Necchio
Bra, Italy – Hi! As I told you on Tuesday, Marc’s butternut squash tart inspired me to dive into cheese and squash. I therefore decided to make a creamy squash soup and to complement it with some good cheese. I am very fond of creamy squash soups and each year I can’t wait for fall to come to start making them, experimenting each time with different combinations of flavors, add-ins, spices etc. depending on my mood and situation. It is a very versatile dish, indeed.
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Since it was also Cheese time last week, I couldn’t resist creating a cheesy squash soup with a great cheese I purchased during the event. Among all the cheeses, I chose castelmagno because it comes from near-by, and it is made from the milk of cows who graze on mountain pastures filled with fresh grass and wildflowers. The traditional castelmagno is becoming more and more rare, which is why it has been classified as a Slow Food Presidium. The quality of the cheese plays a very important role here. I am becoming more and more picky: I buy almost only raw milk cheeses, eating less of them and appreciating them more and more in simple preparations or by themselves instead of considering them as something to throw on top of everything. Less and better is more. As I mentioned on Tuesday, the producer suggested I should buy the freshest one, milder in flavor and perfect for seasoning gnocchi, risotto or soups, so I did.
The ingredients I had gathered so far were squash from the farmer’s market, cheese from local artisan producers…What else? I tend to start my soups with a little onion stir fry – a simple soffritto. Differing slightly from a Spanish sofrito, in Italy a soffritto refers to a lightly fried mixture of herbs and finely minced vegetables (often onions, carrots and celery – in this case I am using only onion). The onion came from my grandpa’s garden (I brought some stuff back with me after summer vacation), the olive oil is a fair trade, organic extra virgin Alce Nero olive oil from Puglia, whose quality to price ratio is really astonishing. For soup stock, I used Alce Nero’s organic vegetable bouillon. To finish the out the list, just a bit of fleur de sel and some thyme from my friend’s terrace herb garden. Ready to cook.
Creamy Winter Squash Soup with Castelmagno d’Alpeggio Cheese
Prep time: 30 minutes (for making the stock, preparing veggies and final blending)
Cook time: 20 minutes (for soffritto and soup)
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 3 lbs winter squash, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 1 small golden onion, peeled and minced
- 1 cube organic vegetable bouillon
- ½ Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cups water
- ½ cup castelmagno d’alpeggio cheese, crumbled
- fleur de sel, to taste
- thyme, for garnish
- In a medium saucepan, heat water over medium heat.
- Throw bouillon cube in boiling water and let dissolve, about 3 minutes.
- In a big saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the minced onions until translucent, about 5 minutes – this is your simple soffritto.
- Add squash chunks to the onion soffritto and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Pour hot stock over the squash without covering them completely. Reduce the heat, cover and let cook until squash is tender, 15-20 minutes.
- Blend the soup with an immersion blender (or purée in a food processor) until smooth and creamy. Add more liquid if the soup is too thick (more stock if you have some leftover, or just 2 Tablespoons water).
- Pour the soup into individual bowls.
- Season with fleur de sel and thyme to taste.
- Distribute castelmagno cheese crumbles on top of each soup bowl, garnish with a spring of thyme.
- Serve hot on a cool fall day!
I served this soup for lunch with some rustic toasted sourdough bread. The texture was perfectly smooth and silky, and the not quite melted cheese crumbles added texture and savoriness to counterbalance the sweetness of the squash. To me, this is the best fall comfort food.
Valeria Necchio recently obtained the Masters in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. She is currently working at Slow Food International for the Raw Milk Campaign. Her spare time is divided between food photography and blogging, and walking at the park.