Mary Ann Esposito is the creator and host of the nationally televised PBS series Ciao Italia, which has aired continuously for 30 years. She has received the Order of the Star of Italy Cavaliere award from the President of the Italian Republic and the Premio Artusi award for her work in promoting Italian food.
Author of 13 cookbooks, her latest is Plant Harvest Cook! (Ciao Italia™, October 31, 2022). Esposito takes readers on a seasonal home garden vegetable journey, providing tips for anyone interested in growing their own vegetables and preparing them Italian style.
Her recipe for Three Squash Soup with Orzo is the perfect autumn/winter vegetarian soup or the main course served with a chunk of toasted bread. Esposito writes, “This filling soup, made with chunks of zucchini and butternut squash, is thickened with pureed spaghetti squash. Lots of flavor and texture are the result. 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.”
Three-Squash Soup with Orzo
Makes 1½ quarts
1 (2-pound) spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut in half again
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for vegan)
2 large leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch half-inch moons (about 2 cups)
2 cups large-diced zucchini
2 cups large-diced butternut squash
4 cups tomato juice
1 cup hot water
3½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
¾ cup orzo, ditalini, or other small soup pasta
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, minced
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the spaghetti squash quarters cut-side down in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour in about ¼ inch of water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the squash is very soft about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop the pulp from the shells and transfer it to a food processor or blender. Puree the squash (in batches if necessary) until smooth. There should be about 1½ cups of puree. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. (Can prepare a day or two ahead.)
While the squash is baking, melt the butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, cover, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the zucchini and butternut squash and stir to evenly mix the vegetables. Cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are cooked through but still retain their shape, about 12 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, hot water, pureed squash, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Photographs of the book cover and Squash Soup: John W. Hession
Feature photo: Deposit Photos (stock)