If your notion of pumpkin is “sweet,” and if you think it should be seasoned only with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and sugar, then get ready to change your mind. This savory, creamy, pungently cheesy pumpkin soup is fragrant with garlic and Parmesan, and punctuated with the frizzled threads of crisped prosciutto. Serve it as a first course before a roast (it makes an inspired appetizer for Thanksgiving), or for lunch with someone you’re dying to impress.
Yield: 8 servings
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
1 large onion, cut into 1/8-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (about 28 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin
2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ cup cream (at least 10% fat)
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and sauté until crisp and frizzled, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion to the skillet, and sauté until tender (do not brown), about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, until aromatic. Stir in the pumpkin, broth, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low.
Stir in the cream and Parmesan and heat through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and garnish with the frizzled prosciutto.
• Evan though the length of cooking time for this soup would make it possible to use fresh pumpkin instead of canned, I advise you not to. Libby’s canned pumpkin (the most commonly available brand) is made from a specially cultivated strain of pumpkin designed for cooking. It is richer, creamier, and tastier than any fresh pumpkin you can purchase.
• If you don’t have prosciutto, you can substitute 3 slices bacon, cut into thin strips.
• Feel free to alter the type of cheese you use to fit your taste or whatever you have on hand. Any smoked cheese would be delicious in the soup, and other grating cheeses, like Asiago or Romano, are easy to find.
Precook: 10 minutes
Slow Cook: 3 to 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low, in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker