Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds total)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ pound Neese’s Southern Style Hot Country Sausage
1 small yellow onion, small-diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons maple syrup (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Peel and large dice the butternut squash. Set aside.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until fully browned. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl; set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the pot with leftover sausage renderings and cook until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Add butternut squash and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup in small batches in a blender or in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Whisk in the cream and nutmeg. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and keep warm over low heat. 

In a separate saucepan, warm the maple syrup over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and thyme. Stir well to coat.

Serve the soup topped with a spoonful of the maple sausage.

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A Charlotte native, Wilen spent more than 12 years in the restaurant industry where she worked her way up to the role of Executive Chef before opening Chef Alyssa's Kitchen in 2013. She teaches award-winning cooking classes, hosts a Saturday brunch, and has created a family dinner meal service.