A piping hot sip of soup is an unexpected yet inviting way to greet your guests as they enter. It takes the chill off and gives them a taste of what’s to come. Here it’s served in antique espresso cups, but have extra small bowls at the ready for heartier portions served later in the evening.
Makes 2 quarts
• 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
• 1 large yellow onion, peeled and small diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 1/2 to 3 lbs butternut squash (1 large), peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
• 1 quart (32 oz) homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
• 1 cup apple cider
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) sage leaves, minced and divided
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook pancetta over medium heat until crispy and golden, 5–7 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Crumble when cooled.
Remove all but two tablespoons fat from pot. Add diced onions and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, 1 minute.
Add squash, chicken stock, apple cider, crushed red pepper flakes, cinnamon stick, 3 tablespoons sage leaves, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered stirring occasionally, until squash is very tender, about 30–35 minutes.
Serve in bowls or cups and garnish with pancetta crumbles and remaining tablespoon of sage.