The perfect hearty and delicious Tuscan-inspired butternut squash soup recipe with Italian sausage and mushrooms. A delicious dish on a cold winter day!
I’m feeling a little nostalgic today. About nearly nine years ago around this time, I closed a significant chapter in my life. I had just graduated with my Master’s degree at Cal Poly, defended my thesis on my birthday, accepted a job, and moved to Southern California that same weekend. Let me tell you, it was a whirlwind, but it meant putting my big girl pants on, starting my first career, and following my heart (to my then boyfriend and now hubby) to a new and very different place.
However, I had to do one thing first before taking the enormous leap. I started the next phase by packing my bags and heading on my dream trip to Italy. I adore Italian food and culture, so I decided to go on my first international trip solo. I was a little nervous going alone, but I experienced one of the most exciting and memorable life changing adventures.
When I think about all of the sights, smells and tastes of Italy, I still get goosebumps and cannot wait until I return someday. One of my stops in Italy was in Tuscany, in a small wine and olive region called Foiano Della Chiana. I stayed at a beautiful farmhouse “agriturismo” called Fattoria Santa Vittorira. Tuscany became my home for a few days, and for the first time learned how to enjoy and live in the moment. As I was reflecting on what seems like just yesterday, I found my travel journal with a butternut squash soup recipe that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
Culinary Adventures in Italy
In Tuscany, the owner of the farm stay, Marta Niccolai, knew the owner and chef of a nearby bed and breakfast called Osteria della Lodola. They offered free cooking classes in exchange for work in their restaurant. I spent two full days learning one-on-one with the most down to earth and a generous chef named Carlo. His family owned the B&B, but his passion was to run the restaurant. He took me grocery shopping for the restaurant at the local markets and taught me how to select the proper ingredients.
During my time at the restaurant, I learned how to make various fresh pasta, sauces, soups, breads, and desserts. I was in heaven! Not only did I get to help prepare the meal but Carlo allowed me to dine with the other guests who ate at communal tables. Did I mention that dinner started at 9 pm and didn’t end until midnight? Italians know how to live in the moment and take the time to enjoy their meals with their friends and family.
Today I’m sharing one of the most simple and heavenly recipes from my experience called Zuppa di Zucca, or Italian butternut squash soup. The winter vegetables were in full bloom at Carlo’s farm, and squash was in season at the time which helps make the soup even more exquisite! This is the perfect Tuscan soup to try on those colder fall and winter nights.
What I learned when I was cooking in Italy is to use simple fresh and seasonal ingredients, then pair them with the right herbs and aromatics to gently enhance the dish. Less is more in Italy, and the ingredients speak for themselves.
I especially noticed in Toscana the emphasis on farm fresh local ingredients and working with local purveyors to get the highest quality meats, oils, cheeses and of course the wine!
Whenever I make this soup, I like to make a salad with fresh vine ripe tomatoes and greens with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. If you have some crusty bread, make some homemade croutons and sprinkle them with salt and fresh ground pepper. Pair with a delicious Tuscan red wine and this meal is oh so soul satisfying.
As I was looking for this butternut squash recipe in my journal, I stumbled across this passage that I wrote when I was eating breakfast outside of the farm stay in Tuscany:
“Peace, solace, appreciation. I love Toscana. It is the purest, beautiful and inviting place you could ever even imagine. Everything here is delicate and purposeful. It is a perfect and simple life. I’m sitting here eating focaccia, ham, egg and pecorino cheese with a glass of white wine and sweet grapes. It’s lovely.”
I can’t help but smile when I think of the endless rolling hills, the vineyards and the charming towns of Tuscany. I can’t wait to go back someday, and I hope you can experience my favorite place in the world too! Thanks for giving me a chance to share, sometimes it’s so refreshing to create a meal that reminds you of such a fond memory. Cin cin!
How does the butternut squash soup become so creamy?
The Italian butternut squash soup is a pureed soup that relies on the natural starches in the squash for its thickening. The squash is cooked in a flavorful liquid, then pureed until smooth using a food processor, blender or hand-held immersion blender. You should never strain a pureed soup, the ingredients suspended particles help provide the thickened and creamy texture without any added milk or cream.
- 1 cup yellow onion , 1/4-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups butternut squash , 1-inch cubes
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- black pepper , freshly ground, as needed for seasoning
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock , or broth
- 8 ounces white mushrooms , 1/4-inch slices
- 4 cloves garlic , peeled and minced
- 1/2 pound fresh Italian sausage , removed from casing, about 2 sausages
- 1 tablespoon chives , sliced for garnish (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley , chopped for garnish (optional)
Heat a large pot over medium heat, then add one tablespoon olive oil to thinly coat the surface. Add onions and sauté until translucent, approximately 4 minutes.
Add butternut squash, rosemary sprigs and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir, then cover. Cook over medium low heat until squash is tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes, and stir if needed.
Remove rosemary and puree ingredients in a blender or with immersion stick blender until a smooth puree consistency is achieved. Add the puree back into the pot if removed. Gradually add the chicken stock or broth to the squash puree, a half-cup at a time and stir into the pureed squash. Add enough liquid until the desired consistency is reached, about 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Adjust the soup seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep the soup warm over low heat.
Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat, then add one tablespoon olive oil to thinly coat the surface. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant and not browned. Add mushrooms and saute, cook until tender about 5 to 6 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to the pureed soup.
In the same pan over medium heat, add the sausage, breaking down into smaller pieces and cook through about 7 to 8 minutes. Add to the pureed soup.
Reheat the soup if needed, taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve the soup garnished with sliced chives and chopped parsley. Enjoy!
1. To make this soup vegetarian-friendly, substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock or water. Remove the sausage and add a variety of heartier mushrooms, roasted corn or your other favorite winter vegetables!