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Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

In this recipe, caramelized pears add a sweet note to classic butternut squash soup. Thin slices of prosciutto—an air-dried, salt-cured ham from Italy—are baked until crispy and used as a savory garnish. They provide a pleasing textural contrast to the velvety soup, while lending just the right amount of saltiness and savor. The soup calls for our ready-to-use organic butternut squash puree, which is enhanced with a classic mirepoix and fragrant spices.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 red Anjou pears, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jars (each 2 lb.) butternut squash puree
  • 4 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Arrange the prosciutto slices in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the prosciutto cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add enough pear slices to form a single layer and cook, turning once, until caramelized on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Repeat to cook the remaining pears.

In the same pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter. Add the celery and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the butternut squash puree, the 4 cups broth, thyme, half of the pears, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half. Add more broth if needed to reach the desired consistency. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with the prosciutto and remaining pear slices. Serve immediately. Serves 12.

Variation: If you cannot find prosciutto, use 8 oz. bacon, cooked until crispy and coarsely chopped.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.