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Weeknight Kitchen: Pumpkin Soup with Smoked Cheese

Serves 4-6
This simple soup is hauntingly autumnal: sweet pumpkin simmered with spices and stock, then pureed and dressed with a grating of smoked cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. In Italy I first ate it with smoked ricotta -- that bit of smokiness took the soup into an entirely new realm.
This recipe takes its inspiration from Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the country's most northeastern region and perhaps one of the most undiscovered by Americans. Because of the region's shared border with Slovenia and Austria -- a border that has changed many times over the centuries -- there you are as likely to hear German and Slovenian as Italian. The food echoes that border mentality with stuffed pastas and schnitzels with ham and cheese, ragus with sausage and radicchio, and potatoes a million ways. The food is delicious. The wine, however, can be divine.
In this area white grapes really shine. I ate this soup paired with a malvasia from Collio, Livon 2013, and it was a memorable combination. Start asking your wine merchant for wines from Collio; you will not be disappointed.
Soup can be made ahead and held covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6-8 cups pumpkin, peeled and seeded in a 1-inch dice (use pie or baking pumpkins or substitute hearty squash like red kuri or Lakota)
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
Good-tasting extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated smoked ricotta or other smoked cheese with personality like cheddar, Gruyere or Idiazabal from Spain
1. Melt the butter in a heavy 5-quart pot over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the onion and cook, stirring often until the onion is nicely wilted and tender, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Stir in the pumpkin, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper and cook another minute to blend flavors.
3. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high, stirring until the wine has entirely evaporated.
4. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the pumpkin is very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover and allow to cool.
5. When cooled, puree the soup, in batches if necessary, and return to the heat. Taste for salt and pepper, and thin to a creamy consistency with additional stock or water.
Serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and a tablespoon or so of the smoked cheese.

Originally published on The Splendid Table's website.

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