Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Butternut Soup with White Beans and Cilantro

I had such a delicious soup a few weeks ago.  It can be pretty socially fluid around here, with so many students in Boston who come and go at various times during the year.  Some friends got together for dinner before a few were leaving town for the summer, and Dan Nystedt cooked up a fantastic dinner for us ... including this soup. Usually pureed soups don't do much for me, but this one was so flavorful and had this little spicy kick to it.  Awesome.  So here it is. 

Chop up your butternut squash into chunks, like the ones below, and put them in a big pot.  Now slice off two tablespoons of butter, like this.  That's right.  Don't forget to turn on your stove to medium-low.

And put that chunk of butter into your pot.  The burner is heating up and those chunks of butternut will be softening in no time.  Technically, it's probably best to put the butter in first, and then add vegetables when it starts to foam.  But I forgot and added them both to the pot at the same time.  No worries.

Don't forget about the garlic.  That would really be a loss.  I took these four cloves, put them through my garlic press, added them to the pot, and stirred it all up  Now, if I were being really fussy I might have sauteed the pressed garlic in the melted butter for a minute or two at the beginning of this process, then started adding the vegetables.  But that just wasn't the mood I was in on this particular day.  It's all good.

Now for the rest of the vegetables.  Isn't this celery gorgeous?  Just had to admire it for a sec.

 But now it's time to slice it up, like so.  And then add those chunks to the pot, too.  Give the butternut and celery and garlic a stir in there, as the butter is melting.  You want those vegetables to be pretty coated so they won't burn.

Now for these lovely yellow onions.  Slice, dice, add to the pot.  I'll bet it's really simmering now.  Don't be afraid to adjust the temperature if it seems like it's getting too hot, or if it's not hot enough (the butter hasn't melted completely).     

And .... on to the tomatoes.  Pretty!  When I first had this soup I would not have guessed tomatoes were in there.  The butternut flavor was just so clear.  But the flavors were more complicated than that, I could tell.  The tomatoes had something to do with it.  So we dice those up, and add them to the pot, too.

If there's a secret ingredient in this, though, it's this cayenne pepper.  1/4 tsp. should do it if you're not so into spicy.  I put 1/2 tsp. in, and the soup in its final form definitely had a kick, but not *too* much (and I'm generally not all that into spicy foods).  I'd say be conservative if you're not sure; you can always add more pepper later, even after it's all blended, if it's not quite spicy enough for you.  Find the full recipe below.  Enjoy!    

(Adapted from Dan Nystedt's recipe)

1 large butternut squash, chopped into chunks
1 large yellow onion
2-3 carrots
4 medium roma tomatoes - the riper, the better
5 celery stalks
4 large cloves of garlic
vegetable or chicken broth
1 15 oz. can cannellini (or other white) beans
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cayenne (red) pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
To garnish: 
Fresh cilantro, minced
Heavy cream


  • Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, add in the rest of the vegetables.  You can do this all at once, or gradually as I did, as I chopped things up along the way.  If you add gradually, just make sure you give the pot a stir every so often so that the vegetables don't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash starts to fall apart and the other vegetables are very soft (you'll be blending these into a smooth puree in a few minutes).  Stir in 3/4 of the cannellini beans, set the other 1/4 of the can aside. 
  • Pour in 5 cups of broth.  I made a very light broth using 2 medium-sized boullion cubes and 5 cups of water.  There are a lot of flavors in here so you don't need a strong broth.  Let the vegetable-broth mixture come to a slow boil for about 3-5 minutes, then turn off the heat.  Again, you'll want to check on how soft the vegetables are and make sure that they're soft enough to blend easily before turning off the heat.  
  • Add the cayenne pepper and stir everything up again.
  • Let the soup cool for 10-15 minutes before you blend it.  You don't want to burn yourself if any of it spatters!
  • I used an immersion blender to blend the vegetables while they were still in the pot.  You could also pour the vegetable-broth mixture into a regular blender.
  • Once the vegetables are blended into a smooth mixture, add in the 1/4 can of cannelli beans you set aside.  These give the soup some extra heartiness and texture. 
Garnish the soup with as much chopped fresh cilantro as you like, and 1-2 tsp. of cream, as you prefer. 

I chopped up the vegetables myself here, but you could save some time by buying vegetables already prepared.

Also, I like the hearty feel you get from adding the whole beans to the pureed mixture.  But, if you prefer a completely smooth texture, just blend in the whole can. 


  1. Hey Madeleine, great breakdown of your cooking process! If you have some soup left over, you can make a very rich and delicious risotto with it. Just cut the soup with chicken broth and follow this recipe:

    Risotto alla Milanese

    -4 cups of chicken broth (or in this case, half broth & half butternut squash soup)
    -3 oz butter
    -1 tablespoon olive oil
    -two onions, finely diced
    -2.25 cups of arborio rice
    -1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
    -1/2 cup dry white wine (Orvieto Classico is a good one)
    -1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (get the good stuff, parmigiano reggiano)


    -Place stock/soup in a saucepan and simmer gently
    -Melt butter & oil in a large saucepan, add onions & saute for 5 mins
    -Add rice & saffron & stir well to coat each grain with oil & butter
    -Add just enough stock to cover rice & stir continuously at a simmer
    -When most of the liquid is absorbed, add more stock in stages stirring it until it is all absorbed.
    -Finally, stir in the wine and parmesan, season with salt & pepper & serve immediately.


  2. This sounds absolutely delicious, Dan. It reminds me of butternut gnocchi. And I love the idea of cooking with wine.

  3. Butternut is a wonderful veggie; love your soup, love the risotto idea; make kibbeh pie with butternut (and balls too) and pasta and lasagne, etc. It is an endless source of inspiration.

  4. What a wonderful soup! I just love butternut squash and I'm a big fan of pureed soups with packed flavor =)

  5. Awesome! My mouth is watering...

  6. Thank you for your comments, [tasteofbeirut], Peggy, and Maggie. Do let me know if you ever make the soup, and how it turns out!