Winter Squash and Barley Soup with Sage

Chef Katherine Deumling

This is simple, so satisfying and as with many soups, improves on day two and three and freezes well. Make a big pot and enjoy. The beans are entirely optional. I often have cooked beans on hand and they just vary flavor and texture even more but the soup is fantastic without as well.

 Serves 6

3 T olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 slices bacon, very finely diced (optional–add 1 t smoked paprika if not using bacon)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 T fresh sage, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons dried

1 ½ c barley (parboiled for 15 minutes if whole, not pearled)

1 medium SIMPLE winter squash (such as kabocha)

6 c or more, water

1½ c cooked beans (optional–see headnote), any kind will be fine

Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)


Peel (unless using delicata squash or another variety with thin skin), and cut squash into bite-sized pieces. If you have whole, not pearled or semi-pearled, barley, boil it in plenty of lightly salted water for 15 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and bacon, if using, and cook for 7-8 more minutes. Turn heat down if browning. Add sage and 1 tsp salt and some black pepper and stir well. Add squash and barley (either raw or parboiled) and stir well. Add water (used the barley cooking water if you parboiled the barley) and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until barley and squash are tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add beans, if you’d like and heat through. Mash some of the squash against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon to thicken it a bit. Taste and adjust seasoning. The soup needs a lot of salt to bring out all the flavors.  Garnish with parsley if you’d like or just drizzle with good olive oil and more black pepper.


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