Soup Story: A ‘Passato’ of Pumpkin
Beautiful Food Stories: A Fall Recipe
Just when fresh red tomatoes are no longer available and summer days disappear into darkness, an orange alternative arrives in many shapes and sizes.
Squash and pumpkin are autumn’s answer to the tomato and I use them in much the same way, each in their own season.
The following recipe is for a soup made of roasted pumpkin and sautéed onions. This particular kind of preparation is very much Italian and is called a “passato” because the cooked ingredients are pureed until beautifully smooth.
I like to call it orange velvet soup.
This recipe’s quantity is for two persons as a main meal.
one red onion, approximately 150 grams peeled
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of sea salt
coarse black pepper for the vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
1 celery stick
Baking the pumpkin.
To prepare this soup, choose a wedge of a large pumpkin like a dark green kabocha. A butternut or spaghetti squash works perfectly as well. If you are at loss to find a pumpkin of any kind, simply replace the pumpkin with the same amount of sweet potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius. Wash the pumpkin of your choice. Cut off the top in much the same way you would to make a pumpkin lantern. Place the pumpkin and its “beret” shaped lid on an oven platter covered with parchment paper.
Sprinkle the pumpkin with sea salt and place it in the middle of the oven. Bake it until the velvety orange pumpkin flesh can be easily pierced with a butter knife, approximately 25 minutes. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool before scooping out the seeds. (Yes, indeed! You can toast the seeds, but that’s another story).
Meanwhile, make a simple vegetable broth.
The vegetable broth.
Wash the celery and carrot thoroughly, removing the root ends. Bring 1250 ml water and a teaspoon of sea salt to a boil, then turn down the heat. Add the bay leaves, celery and carrot and simmer 20 minutes. If you happen to have a few sprigs of parsley or some fresh sage leaves, add them to the broth too.
Taste the broth. It should have a light, refreshing flavour. Turn off the heat.
Peel the onion and cut it into a fine dice. Pour 50 ml extra virgin olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the pumpkin. Warm the oil and add the onion. Sauté it about five minutes or until the onions are turning translucent. Add the pumpkin flesh and pour in the vegetable broth un-l just above the pumpkin, about 750 ml. Add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Simmer the ingredients 20-30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is as smooth as warm mashed potatoes.
Puree the pumpkin while still warm with an immersion blender or in a food processor into a smooth velvety soup. This can take a few minutes to achieve the right texture. Add extra vegetable broth a little at a time until the soup has a consistency to your liking.
Personally, I like my “passato” soup to be so thick it almost stays hanging on the spoon. Add sea salt, black pepper, a teaspoon of finely crushed dried rosemary and a smidgen of freshly grated nutmeg to give depth to the sweet pumpkin.
Serving the soup.
The flavour of the soup will improve considerably if it has had the chance to cool down – so if time allows – leave it on the stove top with the lid on for about an hour before serving. Once the flavours have mingled, taste it for the right balance between savoury and spice – adding sea salt and some freshly ground pepper if needed.
Warm the passato, adding with some stray leaves of basil or parsley from the garden at the last minute. Drizzle the passato with extra virgin olive oil and spoon up this bright, orange, velvet goodness in your favourite bowls.
Where I grew up in the northern Italian region of the Veneto, a passato of vegetables is almost always served with just a bit of finely grated Parmiginao cheese.
In southern Italy, a grinding of dried red pepper flakes might be added at the table.
A bold flavour addition is made by chopping a few anchovy fillets mixed with some capers… something which just might be done on the island of Sicily.
Any winter root vegetable is happy to receive a big dollop of thick yoghurt, creme fraiche or melted butter by the way!