Best-quality canned tomatoes are key to this simple, well-rounded soup.  Roasting the tomatoes in a hot oven with a little sugar before adding them to the pot concentrates their flavor and caramelizes their juices.  If you chop and saute the other vegetables while the tomatoes are in the oven, the soup comes together in under and hour.  With a thick wedge of toasted cornbread and an apple, it makes a lovely lunch.

Roasted tomato soup

Yield:  Makes about 10 cups

2 28-oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes

1/4 c. olive oil, divided

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 Spanish onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp. finely chopped, fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

2 c. chicken or vegetable stock, plus more as needed

2 tbsp. butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Drain tomatoes, reserving about 3 c. juice in a large liquid measure.  Halve and seed the tomatoes (hold the halves cut side down and squeeze gently to remove seeds and pulp).  Arrange seeded tomatoes in a single layer on lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.  Roast until juices are evaporated and tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes.

Warm a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in remaining 3 tbsp. olive oil, then add onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and thyme to pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 2 minutes more.  Using a wide spatula, remove roasted tomatoes from foil and add to pot.  Pour in stock and reserved tomato juice.  Raise heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until all vegetables are very tender and soup is slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return to pot.  Stir in butter, if using.  Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and thin to desired consistency with additional stock.

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