This is quite possibly the loveliest and most tasty soup I’ve made to date. It’s a soup of ‘firsts’ for me: not only the first time I’ve made this, but also my first experience roasting red peppers. I’m also pleased that I developed the recipe myself.
The Culinary Enthusiast and I take a lot of motorcycle day trips when the weather is fine, and we’ve enjoyed many good meals stopping at little restaurants and quaint inns in small towns. On one such excursion I ordered a roasted red pepper and tomato soup that was incredible, and I’ve wanted to try my hand at it ever since. Mine is not exactly the same, but I think it’s fair to say it’s equally delicious.
I wanted the red pepper to be the star of the dish, with the tomatoes taking a close second. The onions and garlic are there for background support, and the thyme and basil are wonderfully complementary herbs.
Now that I have my gas stove (you know, the object of my infatuation), I wanted to roast the peppers directly on the flame. Basically, I put whole peppers (stem removed but green cap still intact) right on the burner turned to a high flame, and let each side char, turning carefully with tongs and being mindful of sparks. This certainly is not an exercise to engage in if you are feeling distracted — the object is charring, not conflagration, so pay attention! (Disclaimer: My legal department says I have to say that I am in no way responsible if you try this at home and, despite my cautions to exercise due care, end up receiving your local firefighters in your kitchen.)
Once thoroughly charred (I think I could have roasted mine even more than I did), put each pepper in either a paper bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap. I like the thought of the rustic, environmentally friendly paper bag approach, but I didn’t happen to have any so I went with the second option.
After 15 minutes or so, you’ll be able to easily scrape the skin off the peppers, trying to remove as much of the char as possible. Then cut out the stem part and remove the ribs and seeds. Cut the pepper into strips or whatever size you desire for your recipe.
One more pointer before getting down to the recipe. For a soup such as this it’s worth spending a couple of dollars extra on a can of San Marzano tomatoes. The difference in quality is remarkable, and the soup is so reasonable in cost that it’s still a frugal dish even with the splurge. When tomatoes are in season, though, I will be trying this with roasted fresh tomatoes. I imagine it will be even better than today’s version!
Note: Some of the photos in this post were updated in 2014.
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
4 to 6 servings, depending on whether this is the main attraction or a first course
- 3 roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 28-oz can tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 4 cups (946 ml) chicken stock (I used an organic, low sodium brand)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil
- lots of freshly ground pepper (I counted, and I used about 16 turns of the pepper mill altogether)
- 1 to 2 tsp kosher salt
Roast the peppers as per the description above, or other method of your choice (e.g., barbecue or oven; or, you could purchase roasted peppers). While the peppers are resting in their steamy little spa, heat the oil in a large pot over medium low heat and add the onion and garlic. Turn the heat to low and stir occasionally. You want them to become translucent but not browned.
Peel, de-seed and chop the peppers and add to the pot. Add the tomatoes, thyme, basil, freshly ground pepper and 1 tsp salt. Stir in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes.
Once cooked, puree until very smooth (my preferred method is to use an immersion blender). Check for seasonings, and add more salt and pepper if required to your taste.
This soup is beautiful to look at, with the vibrant orangey-red broth offset by flecks of the herbs and some small bits of the pepper char (I don’t know if it’s possible to remove it all, and a tiny bit adds some complexity to the flavour as well as visual interest). The taste is intense. The first high note is of the red pepper, then you notice the tomato, with all the other ingredients providing a harmonious chorus of flavour. This soup is mostly smooth, with just enough textural variety to keep it interesting.
Within a few minutes of serving, your first bowlful will quickly become a bowl empty and you definitely will want seconds.
Roasted red pepper and tomato soup is a treat for the eyes and the palate, and good for you too. Enjoy!