My obsession with tomato soup
Tomato soup used to be my favorite choice at the “French” restaurant near my office. I wrote French in quotation marks as La Madeleine, in my humble opinion, doesn’t have much to do with French cuisine. I never had tomato soup growing up in France, yet it’s one of the staples on their menu. According to Wikipedia, tomato soup is most popular in the United States and… Poland! La Madeleine’s interpretation of other French specialties such as crepes also has little in common with what you would be served in France. But I digress, forgive me.
This being said, La Madeleine’s tomato soup is a deliciously rich, creamy and satisfying dish that I used to crave. Until… it became so popular that they started selling it in jars and I read the nutrition label! At 340 calories per cup, 32 grams of fat and 8 grams of sugar, it seemed more like a heart attack in the making than a healthy vegetable soup…
I have since become obsessed with finding a good but healthy tomato soup recipe.
My healthier ingredients
The cream had to go to reduce the fat content. But I had to find a way to still make the soup creamy. In comes the rice… Just 1/4 cup of round Arborio rice produces a nice silkiness that creates a creamy illusion on your tongue.
I also love the addition of roasted red peppers. Their sweetness provides a nice balance for the tomatoes’ acidity, without having to add any sugar. If you are short on time, you have my permission to use a jar of roasted peppers. But trust me, taking the time to roast and peel them yourself is well worth the extra effort.
My secret ingredients
My lovely sister-in-law gifted me recently with some culinary essential oils of basil, cilantro, oregano and rosemary. I normally use fresh basil in this recipe, but since I have zero basil in my garden in winter and my local grocery store charges $5 for 3 sprigs of basil, I decided to experiment with basil essential oil. I was sold at first try! Just 3 drops and the whole pot smelled like fresh basil. So, thank you Beth for helping me discover this trick. I will definitely keep these oils in my pantry at all times. You can buy them on Amazon following the link above or in the recipe.
And then, there’s the mystery ingredient… that one crazy ingredient you would never have thought would go with the others. But it creates its own little magic… I’ll let you read the recipe to see if you can spot it!
Bringing it all together
This recipe makes 8 servings of about 1 1/2 cup. I usually freeze half and it reheats very well.
Top with your favorite toppings such as Parmesan shavings, croutons, a dollop of pesto or a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a nice crusty bread, or even better a grilled cheese sandwich – you’ve saved all this fat and calories from the soup, so you can indulge in a little cheese 😉
Try it yourself and let me know what you think!
Tomato red bell pepper soup
- 2 ea Red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ea Onion medium, chopped
- 1/2 cup Carrots chopped
- 1/2 cup Celery stalks chopped
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1/4 cup Garlic chopped
- 28 oz Canned crushed tomatoes or diced
- 1/4 cup Tomato paste
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
- 6 cups Vegetable broth
- 3 drops Basil essential oil or 2 sprigs fresh basil
- Fresh ground pepper
- Roast the peppers on a baking sheet in a 425 deg oven for about 40 min, turning every 10 min. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl and cover. Allow to cool, then peel, seed and dice. Set aside.
- 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.
- Add the carrot and celery and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 5 more minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute
- Add the tomatoes (with their liquid if using diced tomatoes), the tomato paste, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Add the diced roasted peppers, the vegetable broth, rice. Add fresh basil or basil essential oil. 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. Remove the basil sprigs if you used fresh basil.
- Using a handheld immersion blender, purée the soup, or use a traditional blender and purée in batches, then return to the pot.
- Serve with toppings of choice such as: shavings of Parmesan cheese, croutons, a dollop of pesto, slivered basil, and/or a drizzle of olive oil