Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Makes 2 1/2 quarts
Orzo is better known as pearl barley and is a favorite addition to soups. It is just right in this glorious and hearty soup made with chunks of butternut and zucchini squash. Pureed spaghetti squash and cherry tomatoes are used to thicken the soup, giving it lots of flavor and texture.
An added bonus is that the soup is very low in fat. Prepare the soup ingredients a day ahead by baking and pureeing the spaghetti squash, pureeing the tomatoes, and cutting up the vegetables.
1 1/4 pounds spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut into quarters
4 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound leeks, white part only, washed well, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 zucchini (12 ounces total), cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, cut in half, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 cups pureed cherry tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup hot water
3 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Orzo or other small soup pasta
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, minced
Preheat the over to 375F.
Place the spaghetti squash quarters cut side down in a baking pan with 1/2 cup of water. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until the squash is soft, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop the pulp from the cavity and transfer it to a food processor or blender. Puree the squash until smooth (you may have to do it in batches). There should be about 1 1/2 cups. Transfer the squash to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be prepared a day or two ahead.)
While the squash is baking, melt the butter in a soup pot, add the leeks, and cook, covered, over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the zucchini and butternut squash, stir to evenly mix the vegetables, cover the pot, and continue to cook over low heat for about 12 minutes. The vegetables should retain their shape and be al dente but cooked. Stir in the tomatoes, hot water, pureed squash, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the remaining 4 cups of water to a boil, stir in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the orzo and cook until the orzo is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and stir the orzo into the soup. Stir in the basil and serve.
TIP: Using a nonstick soup pot in this recipe eliminates the need to add much fat when cooking the leeks and vegetables.
NOTE: Spaghetti squash can be cooked in a microwave on high power for 5 to 6 minutes per pound. Be sure to pierce the rind first before microwaving to prevent an explosion.
This recipe is from MANGIA PASTA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1998.