Year Round Tomato Soup

Photo by Chef Jamie Levine

The weather in L.A. has been a bit manic lately.  Today turned out to be a "cold" day and whenever it gets below 65°, I automatically gravitate towards soup.

Photo by Chef Jamie Levine

In my 4 years of being a Personal Chef, tomato soup has by far been the most requested soup. There’s something comforting about it. While I’m all about seasonality, there's nothing like a hot bowl of tomato soup on a blustery night (especially with grilled cheese)!

tomato soup in pot

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple of mine.  They are one of a few canned products that produce really good results. I usually buy them chopped to save myself the extra step of mashing them later.

Just remember, don’t wear white while you make this.

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 cups)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 28 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
  • 16 oz. vegetable broth (or water or chicken stock)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • juice of ½ lemon (or some of your favorite vinegar)
  • (kosher) salt to taste

-Turn burner to medium low and place a large saucepan on burner set with olive oil, chili flakes and garlic.tip 1,2
-As soon as you can smell the garlic (about 1 minute), add the red onion, season with a big pinch of salt and give everything a big stir.tip 3
-Let the garlic and onions sweat out for a few minutes (this brings out the onion’s natural sugars).
-Add the celery and carrots, season with another pinch of salt and give it another big stir.
-Let vegetable mixture cook slowly for about 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. You are looking to gently sweat everything out.
-Add tomatoes, vegetable broth and paprika. Give another big stir.
-Put a lid on it (this helps lock in flavor) and let simmer for 20 minutes.
-Add lemon juice and puree in blender until desired consistency.  Add more liquid if you like thinner soup.tip 4
-Add more salt/lemon juice to taste.tip 5,6

My tips:

1.  Use any shape pan that can hold all of these ingredients. The key is to have enough surface area to equally sweat out all vegetables. If the vegetables are stacked high in the sweating process, the bottom ones will be cooked and the top will be raw.
2.  Everyone’s burners are different.  A lower flame allows better temperature control. You don’t want to get the oil too hot or you’ll burn the vegetables and get bitter soup.
3.  Add the onions as soon as you can smell the garlic. If you wait until the garlic gets golden, it’s already getting bitter.
4.  Taste while it’s in the blender.  If it needs more salt, add more.  If it’s already too acidic for you, don’t add any more acid. It’s all about taste.
5.  Puree this soup to your desired consistency. I personally like it with some texture but some prefer it silky smooth.  If you add more fat (i.e. olive oil, butter) while blending, it will emulsify to very smooth.
6.  Be aware: the more olive oil you add, the more your soup will taste like olive oil.