2.5 to 3 pounds butternuts
1/4 c olive oil, plus extra for the squash
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 Tbs. chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or 1/4 tsp dried
1/4 chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 qts. water or stock
1/2 c fontina, pecorino, or ricotta salata, diced into small cubes
Preheat oven to 375. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, stuff the cavities with garlic and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the squash flesh in to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1.5 tsp salt and the water/stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more water/stock to thin it out. Taste for salt.
For a more refined, smooth soup, pass through a food mill or use a hand blender or regular blender to puree. Ladle into bolws and sprinkle with the cheese. Garnish each bowl with the fried sage leaves, add pepper, and serve.