My daughter is 4 years old, and one of her favorite fall activities is picking pumpkins. When we are at the pumpkin patch, she inevitably declares at least half a dozen pumpkins “perfect” for our house, and after some negotiation, we usually allow her to select four. While this means a lot of carving on our end, I don’t mind, because what it really means to me is more pumpkin to cook with.
To introduce my daughter to pumpkin as a healthy food, I enlist her help in scooping out the pumpkin guts before she moves on to carving the jack-o’-lantern. We fill large mixing bowls with the stringy orange insides, and she oohs and aahs at the number of seeds, which, when toasted, are one of her favorite snacks. Then I leave her and her father to do the actual pumpkin face carving while I go inside to start dinner.
One of the first things I make with our pumpkin is this simple fall soup. The rich pumpkin brew is highlighted with spicy ginger and notes of cinnamon. We love adding some fresh cheese tortellini at the end to make it a full meal, but it can be omitted if you prefer your soup pasta-free. It is the best kind of healthy comfort food for fall, and the gentle sweetness makes it especially appealing to children. I usually serve it with a simple side of sliced ham and some fresh baguette for mopping the bowl clean.
Pumpkin Ginger Tortellini Soup
9 lb. (the contents of about two or three medium-size pumpkins) of pumpkin, with seeds and strings removed
½ cup olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
12 oz. fresh cheese tortellini
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line one or two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil.
2. Cut the pumpkin into roughly even-size 2-in. cubes. Toss the cubes lightly with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkin for about 45 minutes, or until softened and a light golden brown.*
3. Meanwhile, in a large heavy stockpot over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and cinnamon and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the stock and bring everything to a simmer.
4. Use a large spoon to add the roasted pumpkin to the simmering soup. Then use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth, or, alternatively, scoop the soup into a blender and puree until smooth.
5. Pour the soup back into the pot and pour in the apple cider and tortellini. Simmer the soup until the tortellini is cooked through and floats to the top, about 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot.**
*Canned pumpkin can be substituted. Omit the roasting stage.
** This soup freezes beautifully without the tortellini in it. Simply place it in a freezer-safe container and leave 1 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion when the soup is frozen. To reheat, thaw the soup in a saucepan over medium-low heat, add the fresh tortellini and simmer until completely cooked.
Kelsey Banfield is the author of the popular family cooking blog The Naptime Chef. Her first cookbook, The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life, was published in spring 2012 by Running Press.