Food & dining

Recipe for roasted winter vegetable soup with parsley pesto and cheese toasts

Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Serves 6-8 (or 10-12 as tasting-size portions)

When you roast winter root vegetables along with shallots, leeks, and garlic, they caramelize and become sweet. Although this soup takes only about an hour from start to finish, the resulting flavor is startlingly complex. It’s important to cut the vegetables about the same size to ensure even cooking. Vibrant green parsley pesto and cheesy toasts make the perfect toppings.

SOUP

3medium leeks
3medium parsnips, peeled and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
3medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1butternut squash (2 pounds) or other winter squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2large or 3 medium celery stalks, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1medium celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2shallots, quartered
8cloves garlic, sliced thin
tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
3tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
5cups vegetable or chicken stock
¾cup dry white wine
Parsley pesto (for serving)
Cheese toasts (for serving)

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1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 degrees.

2. From the leeks, trim the dark-green sections (save them for making vegetable stock another time). Halve the pale green and white sections lengthwise. Rinse under cold running water, pat dry, and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces.

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3. In one large or two medium shallow roasting pans, or on rimmed baking sheets, place the leeks, parsnips, carrots, squash, celery, celery root, shallots, garlic, and thyme. (You’ll want them all to fit without overlapping.) Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. Spread them in a single layer.

4. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees and roast for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are golden brown, almost crispy on the edges, and nearly soft when you gently test them with a fork or small, sharp knife. You don’t want them soft and mushy; they will continue cooking in the soup.

5. While vegetables are roasting, in a large soup pot over high heat, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer gently.

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6. Remove the vegetables from the oven, add the wine, and deglaze the pan, using a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom. Pour everything from the baking sheet into the stock. Turn the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

PARSLEY PESTO

1cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
½cup walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts, toasted (optional)
1clove garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
½cup olive oil
¼cup freshly grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Romano, or manchego

1. In a food processor, combine parsley, nuts (if using), and garlic. Blend until finely chopped and season with salt and pepper.

2. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, being careful not to overprocess the pesto; it should still be a little chunky.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

CHEESE TOASTS

12slices (¼- to ½-inch thick) baguette
4tablespoons olive oil
1cup grated cheese (Parmesan, Gruyere, cheddar, blue, or another variety of your choosing)

1. Position a rack as close as possible to the top of the oven and turn on the broiler.

2. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Using 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, brush one side of each slice and broil 1-2 minutes, or until just turning golden brown. Remove sheet from broiler, sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese, and broil another 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Using tongs, gently flip the bread. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and broil 1-2 minutes, or until just turning golden brown. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and broil another minute, or until the cheese is melted. Let cool.

4. Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls and serve piping hot, topped with pesto and toasts. Adapted from “Soup Swap,” by Kathy Gunst

Kathy Gunst can be reached at www.kathygunst.com. Follow her on Twitter @mainecook.
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