The markets are bursting with beautiful cornucopias of fall produce, the most conspicuous of which are all the robust and oddly shaped squash and gourd varieties.

Sure, they make for colorful seasonal table centerpieces, but they are actually just screaming to be cooked! If you're nervous about diving into the world of the squash, then lets start small, with the least intimidating variety: the Butternut Squash.

It's a winter squash with a nutty flavor and is rich and sweet when ripe. The most daunting part about dealing with squash is cutting it up, but with a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board, you'll be just fine.

I'm a huge fan of pureed soups, and starchy veggies usually make the best, naturally thick bases. To really boost flavor potential, roasting vegetables first brings out the natural sugars and builds another rich bold layer to the dish.

I'm also using a bit of beer for this recipe. I recommend using a malty beer -- a perfect time to crack open your favorite Oktoberfest brew. Since we're cooking out the alcohol, the full-bodied flavor with a hint of seasonal spice complements this soup perfectly.

Top it off with a hint of freshly shaved salty parmesan cheese and pinch of sage for that final finishing touch.

Roasted butternut squash & leek soup

  • * 1 butternut squash (5-6 pounds)
  • * 2 leeks
  • * 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • * 2 tablespoons butter
  • * 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • * 10-15 leaves fresh sage
  • * 1/2 cup good beer
  • * 4 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • * 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • * salt
  • * fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Cut off the hairy end of the leeks. Trim and discard any dried or blemished parts of the green tops. Slice whole leek in half vertically (from white end to green) and chop. Put chopped leeks into a bowl of cold water and swish around with your hands, allowing the dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Let soak while you prep the remaining veggies.

3. Clean and prep the squash by quartering the squash and then cutting or peeling off the skin. Remove seeds and "guts." Cut squash into bite-sized cubes.

4. Take 3/4 of the sage leaves and combine with sea salt and ground pepper into a pile on a cutting board. Roughly chop all ingredients together. Chop remaining sage alone and set aside.

5. Combine squash, leeks, garlic (set aside about 1 clove), and sage-salt-pepper mixture in a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until squash is soft.

6. In a soup pot over medium heat, melt butter and sweat remaining garlic clove and sage. Add beer and bring to a simmer. Allow to reduce by half.

7. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, puree roasted squash and leeks 2 cups at a time, adding 1/2 cup of stock with each batch. Add to soup pot, and stir to incorporate all ingredients.

8. Once all of the squash mixture has been added to the pot, add any remaining stock and allow to simmer. Stir in shaved parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir regularly, and if soup thickens too much as it reduces, simply add more stock or as desired.

Jessica Roy is a private chef, specialty caterer and author of foodie blog, Shiso Fresh. Follow her at blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.