Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

I know that for many people, tomato soup--perhaps paired with a grilled cheese sandwich--equals the ultimate comfort food.  I've love the idea of a comforting bowl of tomato soup, but for some reason I've always been disappointed with the reality.

When I lived in DC, I had a favorite cafe in Georgetown that I used to go to fairly regularly. Called La Madeleine, wasn't particularly fancy, and was actually part of a chain of shops located throughout the South. But I loved it still as it was a cozy sort of place to stop in for a reliably good lunch and a bit of rest after a day of shopping. The cafe is designed so that you enter on one side and slowly walk down a line ordering the various components of your meal--sandwiches on crusty baguettes, salads topped with little rounds of warm goat cheese, an array of glorious pastries, fresh berry lemonades or iced tea,  and steaming bowls of soup.

La Madeleine is known for their tomato basil soup. So much so that they sell jars of it for tourists and regulars to take home with them. My dad is a very big fan of the soup, and we'd usually make a point to stop in and pick up a jar or two of it whenever my parents came down for a visit. I remember trying it once or twice, trying to figure out why it was so popular, but I always felt that it just tasted like sauce.

As in marinara sauce. As in, I wanted to pour it over a pile of pasta, not eat it with a spoon.

I tried again a few times--grabbing spoons from other people's tomato soup at restaurants or a little taste when offered at the take-out lunch counter, always finding that it tasted much too sauce-y to be enjoyed on its own.

I was convinced that tomato soup was just not for me.

But then  the other day I got a craving. It was freezing out and I suddenly wanted tomato soup very badly.

So I decided to make it. I opened up a couple cans of tomatoes and roasted them in the oven along with an onion--just until they were a bit sweeter and then entire apartment smelled a bit like a pizza parlor (in the most delicious way possible).

Then I added this to the pot with some olive oil, red chile flakes, and chicken broth. I pureed it and let it simmer and at the very end, I stirred in some grated parmesan and finely minced basil.

The results? AMAZING. Spicy, creamy and yet, not at all sauce-y.

I've already made about 4 batches of it since then. I guess I AM a tomato soup kind of girl.

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Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

3 28oz cans whole plum tomatoes in sauce
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and quartered
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons red chile flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
1/4 cup finely minced basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

DirectionsPreheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain tomatoes into a bowl, reserving the sauce on the side. Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet and top with chopped onion. Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the smashed garlic and let cook until fragrant--about 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes and onions, and stir to coat with the garlic oil. Add the reserved tomato sauce along with the red chile flakes, oregano, and 4 cups chicken broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes, and then use your immersion blender to puree until smooth (or puree in a regular blender in batches, being careful to not add too much at a time as the heat and steam will make the top burst off).

Let simmer an additional 15 minutes and then stir in basil and cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired, and serve. 

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