Tuscan Style Roasted Red-Pepper and Tomato Basil Soup

This recipe is a riff on classic tomato soup, but the addition of fresh basil and roasted red-peppers bring it a superior depth and a fresh, vegetal brightness that truly elevates this dish to the next level.  Serve with grilled cheese, in a bread bowl, with a rustic hunk of French bread, with soup crackers (pictured) – or just by itself.

Ingredients:

  1. 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 medium shallots, diced
  3. 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 3 stalks of celery, diced
  5. Peeled shavings of 1 carrot (top shavings discarded) – use vegetable peeler
  6. 5-6 orange, yellow or red sweet or bell peppers
  7. 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  8. 1 28oz can tomato sauce
  9. 4 cups (32oz box) low sodium chicken stock
  10. Approximately 1 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  11. 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream, or to taste.

Instructions:

  1. Begin by roasting your peppers.  You can pop them under the broiler on HIGH for a few minutes, toss them on the grill, or simply use a wire-rack on top of a gas-range stovetop.  Whatever method you choose, you want them to blister and blacken a bit in spots for maximum flavor.  Once peppers are roasted, set them aside and give them a chance to cool.
  2. Add olive oil to a large dutch oven or any other pot suitable for making soup.  Heat over high heat until oil is shimmering.
  3. Lower heat to medium high.  Add shallots, carrot shavings and celery and sauté until shallots are translucent and perhaps beginning to caramelize in spots (don’t burn them) and celery and carrots are soft, 5 or so minutes.
  4. Add garlic and continue to sauté until very fragrant, 1 minute, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken stock and stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil and the reduce to a simmer.  Allow to simmer on the stovetop, partially covered, for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, if soup is not reduced to desired thickness, remove lid, raise the heat, and stir until soup reduces to desired consistency.
  6. In the last 10 minutes of simmering, add the fresh basil.  Stir to incorporate fully.
  7.  Using an immersion blender, purée the contents of the pot until very smoothNOTE:  Make sure the head of the immersion blender is fully submerged before turning it on, unless you like hot soup explosions.NOTE:  You can purée the soup in batches in a regular blender, but be careful.  Make sure that (1) you don’t fill the blender more than half way and (2) make sure that you leave adequate venting at the top of the blender.  If you don’t the steam will create a pressure monster and hot soup will be all over your kitchen in a hurry.  Most blenders have a removable stopper in the lid.  I recommend removing this and covering the hole with a kitchen towel.NOTE:  If a smoother, less rustic soup is desired, the soup can be put through a fine mesh strainer in batches and then returned to the pot
  8. Stir in cream and serve.

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