2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3 bay leaves
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
One 2 pound whole sugar pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out, flesh peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (resulting in 3 1/2 cups or 1 pound of chunks)
1/2 pound ham hock
8 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained OR 1 large fresh, ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
2 15-ounce cans of cannellini white beans, rinsed and drained
6 sprigs of thyme, tied with string (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 large sage leaf (optional)
4 large Swiss chard leaves (can substitute kale), center rib removed, leaves roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pot (5 to 6 quart). Add the onion and the bay leaves and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Then add the chopped celery, cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Then add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more.
Add the chopped pumpkin and the ham hock to the pot. Add the stock, tomatoes, and thyme. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, uncovered. Let simmer for an hour and a half.
Remove the ham hock from the soup pot, to a plate to let cool enough to handle. Add the white beans and cook for 15 minutes. Add the chopped chard, simmer until chard is wilted, a few minutes more.
Strip the meat from the ham hock, chop it, and return to the pot. Add 1 to 2 cups of water to the soup to thin it to your preference. Remove the bay leaves before serving.