Oh my Goodness I love this soup, it’s a great big bowl of comforting deliciousness. Tomato soup can be a fickle thing, too acidic, too sweet, too thin, not enough flavor etc etc. This, I have to say is completely wonderful. I was so excited when I was tasting (well gulping it ) I really don’t think it can be improved. And why did it take me 53 years to figure out adding cheese tortellini to tomato soup is genius? This is such an easy soup to make using canned tomatoes instead of fresh, there’s no fiddling around blanching or peeling. Plus it gives you access to this comforting bowl of yumminess all year round.
I think one of the reasons it’s so fabulous has to do with the fact that there is quite a bit of FAT in the recipe – GOOD fat. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil is a lot but you cook the sofrito (onion, carrots, celery and garlic) for a good 25-30 minutes and the result is the flavors become richer. Make sure you dice the vegetables for the sofrito very finely, they cook down to almost a paste. Then there’s the butter, just a tablespoon as you add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, it rounds everything out very nicely. Last but not least there’s a tablespoon of heavy cream at the end which is optional but highly recommended.
If I have the choice I like to use San Marzano tomatoes, I think they have the best flavor. Different canned tomatoes have very different tastes so it’s really a question of getting to know what you like. You can use pureed, diced or whole tomatoes for this. Marcella Hazan (who was Italy’s version of Julia Child) said that whole tomatoes are actually the best as they use the more damaged fruit for the puree and diced. Of course you can make this a vegetarian soup by using a really good homemade vegetable stock .
Tomato Soup with Tortellini
3–4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1, 28oz can tomatoes, diced, pureed or whole
2 cups organic chicken stock
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
1, 8oz package of cheese tortellini
In a large stockpot heat the olive oil, add the onions and cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle over some salt which will help to prevent the onions burning. Stir well.
Add the carrots, celery and garlic and continue to cook on medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. You want the mixture to cook down which produces a great flavor. Stir and make sure it doesn’t burn.
Add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and tablespoon of butter. Stir well and let the butter melt. Add the tomatoes and stock. Stir, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for a further 20 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the tortellini according to the package instructions. Toss in a knob of butter. Set aside.
When the soup is cooked, transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful not to burn yourself!
Taste for seasonings. Add a little more salt and pepper. Pour into bowls, add the tortellini and serve with fresh basil and plenty of parmesan cheese.