Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Fennel is a hearty, gluten-free, and healthy soup. Incredibly delicious without heavy cream, this butternut squash soup recipe is loaded with vegetables, including fennel, and even has pears thrown in the mix.
Slice the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. You do not need to peel it first. Cut it into a few pieces. The smaller the chunks, the quicker it will cook.
To roast the squash, rub the flesh with a little olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and place it in the oven. Roast for about 60 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. When done, let it cool. Pull the peel off and cut it into cubes. Set aside.
To make the soup, add olive oil to a Dutch oven and heat over low heat. Add the chopped onions and shallot. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook about 10 minutes, or until the onions start to soften.
Add the sliced fennel, celery, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon more salt and cook, stirring often until all of the vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the ginger, cumin, and nutmeg, and add the roasted squash.
Pour in 5-6 cups of broth and increase the heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the soup can simmer. Add the peeled and chopped pears and the orange peel.
Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the pears and squash are tender enough to mash easily with a fork.
Remove the soup from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Taste and add additional salt if needed and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. If the soup is too thick, you can add an additional cup of chicken broth and reheat.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a few drops of fresh lemon juice.
Sharon's Expert Tips:You can substitute four cups of peeled, diced squash from the produce section in your grocery store. Toss with olive oil and roast the squash in the oven (as directed), until tender.When buying butternut squash, look for one that is a solid beige color without any deep cuts or bruises. It also should feel heavy for its size, and if you thump it, it should sound hollow inside. Butternut squash will keep well in a cool, dark part of your kitchen for several weeks. It does not need to be kept in the refrigerator.If you have never cut up butternut squash, it can be a little intimidating, but all you need is a sharp knife. To begin, cut a thin slice off of the top and bottom of the squash so that both ends are flat. Then, stand the squash up and holding the knife in both hands with the blade down, push it down, and slice down the middle to cut it in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. A grapefruit spoon works best for this job.To prepare the fennel for slicing, you first need to cut off the fronds. Then slice the bulb in half vertically and cut out the core in a wedge. Next, thinly slice the rest of the bulb.You can substitute acorn squash for the butternut squash in this recipe. Chicken stock or broth can also be substituted for vegetable stock. And, speaking of substitutions, feel free to substitute apples for the pears in this recipe. Heck, you can even add an apple or two if you like. This soup freezes well and can be stored in your freezer for up to two months in an airtight container.If you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender. Be sure to place a folded-up kitchen towel over the top of the blender to prevent any steam or soup from splashing out.