Heat oil in large pot of Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Bruise (rub together) 4 of the sage leaves to release the essential oils. Add them to the pot and cook for 30 seconds per side. This will infuse the oil with a mild sage flavor.Remove sage from the pot and discard. Reduce heat to medium.
Add diced onion and cook for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. The object is to sweat the onions not brown them, so reduce the heat if needed. Add garlic, and cook for an additional 35-45 seconds.
Next, add stock, smoked pumpkin flesh, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes to the pot. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half and half and and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let stand for 5-7 minutes or so. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Taste for salt content and add more if needed.
To serve, place 2-3 ladles full of soup into a soup bowl. Top with a little olive oil, parmesan, and sage leaves (or a fresh herb or micro-green of choice).
Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days after preparation.
This recipe can be made vegan as well. Use vegetable stock, a creamy vegan milk alternative, and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan. The texture of the soup might not be the same, but it will certainly be delicious!