This recipe from Deborah Madison is a nice variation. The three cheeses she offers as options are all quite different from each other: the soup would also work nicely with brie, a sharp cheddar, or a smoked gouda. Or omit the cheese entirely to make the dish vegan.
We’ve made this using butternut squash, but you could also use acorn squash, peppercorn, or just about any other winter squash. Cooked butternut squash will be quite smooth, while other varieties will have a more rustic texture. If you’d like to have a velvety soup, give it a few seconds in a blender or use a hand blender before serving.
2 1/2 to 3 pounds butternut squash or other winter squash
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for the squash
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup chopped parsley
freshly milled pepper
2 quarts water or stock
1/2 cup Fontina, pecorino, or ricotta salata (or another preferred cheese – see note above) diced into small cubes.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Put the garlic cloves on the baking sheets. Bake until the squash is tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes.
Remove the squash from the oven and scoop the squash flesh into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan.
Peel the garlic (just squeeze the cloves and the flesh should come out like toothpaste from a tube). Add it to the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more water to thin it out. Taste for salt.
Puree the soup if you want a more refined soup, or serve as-is. Ladle it into bowls and distribute the cheese over the top. Float some sage leaves on top of each bowl, top with black pepper, and serve.