What is it about tomato soup that makes it so comforting? Is it the soup itself or the memories it evokes?
It wasn’t so long ago that tomatoes were source of fear rather than comfort. Native to the Americas, Northern Europeans erroneously believed the tomato to be poisonous. Why? Well, it IS a member of the Nightshade family and many species of which are highly toxic.
There was also the small issue of it being connected to the deaths of aristocrats. You see, in the 1700s, Northern European fancypants used pewter cutlery and dishes. When the pewter came in contact with the highly-acidic tomato, it caused lead to leech into the food. The subsequent lead poisonings were attributed to the tomato rather than the real culprit – the jacked-up tableware.
Fortunately for the world, cooks in Central and South America and the peasants of Mediterranean Europe had no such concerns. Eventually Northern Europeans and Northern Americans caught on to the beauty of gazpacho, pizza, and salsa. Thus making it possible in 1897 for John Dorrance, a chemist at Joseph Campbell & Co., to come up with a recipe for a canned tomato soup. That soup has since become an icon of comfort to many Americans, me included.
So, back to the question, is it the soup itself or the memories it evokes? If we’re talking about Campbell’s tomato soup, uh, well, I’m going to have to it’s the latter. Snow days and grilled cheese and a warm house and my mom making lunch for me; a quadrangle of happy thoughts.
But! I can make a case for the soup itself and I believe this recipe does that in spades. This soup will warm you from the inside out. The balance of flavors – savory, sweet and acidic – makes it compulsively sippable. And though it has not a drop of cream, it is silky and rich.
If that doesn’t sell you on it, how about the fact you can make it three days ahead and keep it in the fridge or freeze it for up to a month? Comfort on demand. I hope you try it and, if you do, tell me all about it.
Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
- 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers drained and chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- ½ cup diced carrot
- ½ cup diced celery
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt to taste
- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes with juice crushed by hand
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon sugar and more to taste
- 1 ½ quarts homemade or store bought unseasoned vegetable stock chicken stock or beef stock or wate
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes, and add the carrot and celery and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Add the basil, thyme, and tomato paste. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the tomato paste begins to get toasty, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with their liquid and sugar if using, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the diced roasted peppers, the stock and salt to taste (Note: tomatoes LIKE salt. As in, don’t be afraid to use a few good sprinkles of kosher salt. Taste it. Does it need more? Add some)
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Season with freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt.
Using a hand blender, purée the soup, or use a blender and purée in batches, being careful to pull a dish towel down over the top and not to cover tightly with the blender lid, then return to the pot and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve alongside your favorite grilled cheese, and garnish with Parmesan cheese, and/or fresh herbs
Advance preparation: This will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen up a month