Using a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half from the stem to the bottom. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon (the seeds can be roasted, composted, or simply discard). Cut each pumpkin half in half again so it's in 4 pieces. Place the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side down. Brush pumpkin flesh with a little olive oil and place in the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes, until the skin is soft and the pumpkin can be pierced with a fork.
Heat butter in a soup pot over medium heat; add the chopped leeks, celery, carrot, and fennel. Cook 8-10 minutes until vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Stir in the ginger, garlic, honey, salt, pepper, thyme, and chipotle; cook 2 minutes until well incorporated and fragrant.
Add the chicken stock and cream to the pot and set aside until the pumpkin is ready.
Toast the pepitas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to pop and brown. Transfer the toasted pepitas from the skillet to a plate to cool until ready to serve.
Once the pumpkin is tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool until easy to handle. Scoop the pumpkin out of the skin onto a cutting board and coarsely chop. Add to the soup and simmer for 5-10 minutes to meld flavors.Blend the soup using an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. For chunkier soup, use a potato masher to mash the pumpkin into the soup until it reaches the desired texture.
Taste the soup and adjust seasonings by adding more honey to sweeten, salt for flavor (keeping in mind the cotija cheese will add some salt), or chipotle for added spice. Add more chicken stock to thin the soup as desired.
Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle with cotija cheese and toasted pepitas.
Recipe Tips & Variations
Substitute 2-3 cups of canned pumpkin for the fresh pumpkin: Cook the canned puree in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, constantly stirring, until it begins to steam to evaporate some of the liquid. This will concentrate the flavor for a richer-tasting soup.
Substitute butternut squash for the pumpkin
Make it dairy-free with coconut or almond milk and dairy-free cheese
Substitute ancho chile powder for the chipotle powder for less spicy flavor