This soup is a little fiddly, but well worth the effort. The squash and aromatics get pureed in the food processor (you may wish to do this in two batches), and then added to cooked barley, Italian sausage, and baby spinach. Although it's a little extra work, I like the technique because you get some of the velvety-ness of a pureed soup without the feeling that you might be eating baby food. The flavors are spot-on with a nice balance between sweet and spicy; you might even use all hot sausages if you want to up the spice a bit, since the squash is already on the sweet side.
This is one of those meals that is just perfect for a chilly day when you want to curl up with a warm bowl of soup. And those days are (hopefully!) fast disappearing, so make this soon! The soup keeps well, although you'll need to add some water or chicken stock when you reheat it...or you can just pretend it's a thick stew, like I did. Either way--yum!
Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage, Pearled Barley, and Spinach
1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 hot Italian sausages (about 1/2 pound)
1 sweet Italian sausage (about 1/4 pound)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
2 T coarsely chopped fresh sage
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups uncooked baby spinach, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Brush the cut surfaces with olive oil and place cut sides down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the flesh is very tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick soup pot over medium heat. Crumble the sausages into the pot and saute until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
3. Add the onions to the pot, adding a little oil if needed. Saute until nicely softened. Remove to a small bowl.
4. Pour the chicken broth into the pot and add the barley. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until the barley is tender.
5. When the squash is tender, cool slightly and then scrape the flesh into a food processor. Add the remaining 3 cups chicken stock, the sage, the lemon juice, and the reserved onions, and puree until smooth. You can also do this step in a blender, in batches.
6. Add the pureed squash to the fully cooked barley. Add the reserved sausage and the baby spinach and stir to combine. Heat gently for a few minutes until everything is warmed through. Taste and add salt and pepper.