Spicy Tomato Soup

Was one of my New Year’s Resolutions to post more frequently?  No–phew-that was Karen.  Because I’m not off to a good start.  And what’s more, I’m posting about something I made w-a-y back last year (which, to be fair, was only a few weeks ago, but why not play it up for dramatic effect).

We were down in DC for Christmas, at my husband’s parents’ house.  My sister-in-law’s copy of Boston restauranteur Barbara Lynch’s cookbook Stir  has taken up semi-permanent residence in their house thanks to her currently reduced kitchen space.  For me this works out well since it means I get a chance to have a good look at it while I am down there.  (Yes, I go to other people’s houses and read their cookbooks.  Is that weird? It’s better than raiding the medicine cabinet).  

My mother-in-law has the typical list on the fridge, except it’s not quite what you’d expect:  rather than writing down the things that need to be picked up on the next trip to the grocery store, it’s a list entitled, things we have too much of.  A “do not buy” list.  You see, my father in law likes to stock up on those staples that don’t go bad, so there are always plenty of dried beans, boxes of pasta, and 28-ounce cans of plum tomatoes.

Canned tomatoes on the do-not-buy list.  Spicy tomato soup in in-law’s cookbook.  In need of a light meal after Christmas excess.  Bingo!

Spicy Tomato Soup (4 of 4)

There are many things that are fantastic about this soup.  First, it’s tremendously pantry-friendly (I suppose that goes without saying) and easy to pull together.  Onions, canned tomatoes, olive oil, and seasonings.  I used dried oregano instead of fresh basil, and in a soup like this it worked just perfectly, as the slow gentle simmer allows the herbs plenty of time to release their flavor into the liquid.

Not only that, it’s a real two-fer.  After you puree and strain the soup, you can save the leftover pulp to make a fiery bruschetta spread for crusty bread or (as Barbara Lynch suggests) even use it to top roasted eggplant.

Spicy Tomato Soup (3 of 4)

It’s a delicious soup that manages to be elegant yet homey at the same time.  And thanks to the red pepper flakes, it’s also peppy. And I was almost surprised by how much I liked it:  sometimes tomato soups can be a little too sweet.  I don’t know if it’s the onions or the hot pepper that tones this down, or both, but the flavors are perfectly calibrated.  It’s a real treat to enjoy vibrant tomato flavor in the middle of winter.  A nice dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream on top doesn’t hurt either.

Spicy Tomato Soup (2 of 4)

And now my father-in-law can buy more canned tomatoes.

Spicy Tomato Soup adapted from Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch, original recipe also available on www.chow.com or with a video of Lynch demonstrating here.

Although we did not make the grilled cheese sandwich to go along with the soup, enjoying instead some gruyere and cured meats, you can find the recipe here.  I’ll definitely be trying it soon–the method looks so easy and straightforward.

If you’re wavering on how much red pepper to use, I’ll let you know that I used 1 1/2 teaspoons–and while I loved it, I’ll just say I definitely won’t be adding more in the future.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes (preferably Italian plum tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onions red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes, including the juices, and the water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

Balance a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. In a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth.  (If using a blender, remove the pour lid from teh center of the lid and cover with a kitchen towel–this will allow steam to escape from the hot soup so the pour lid doesn’t pop off).  Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing the liquid out of the pulp.  Reserve this pulp to use to top bread or as a condiment.  Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

When you strain, a few tips:  it’s easier to do so strain in batches.  Holding the strainer that is increasingly weighed down by pulp gets heavy fast.  You can of course balance it over the bowl, but when that bowl is so full of strained soup that the base of your strainer is immersed in it, it’s time to remove it to another bowl or you’re not going to get anywhere.  Finally, if you stir the soup in the strainer, it helps push the liquid through more quickly, then press the pulp when most of the liquid is through to get out the last bits.

Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot.  (Beware of reheating purees other than gently–it will look and act like molten lava).  A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche makes a nice garnish.

Spicy Tomato Soup (1 of 4)


13 thoughts on “Spicy Tomato Soup

  1. Nothing makes me happier than a good pantry recipe. Of course, there is no way I could ever eat and enjoy this soup, but it does look great, nonetheless.

    Whenever I go to parties I usually end up curled into the corner of a couch flipping through the hosts’ cookbooks. I had a friend bring his new gf to our house for a party and she did the exact same thing. So I found that to be perfectly acceptable behavior.

  2. I do love tomato soup, especially one that uses pantry staples. I prefer tomato soups that aren’t too sweet, too.

    Checking out others’ cookbook collections is one of life’s pleasures!

  3. Great simple recipe. Thanks for blazing a trail with the 1.5 tsp of hrpf, so the rest of us don’t have to take it quite that far. I’m on my own this weekend so looks like a good option. Ken

  4. Ok, I made it last night for my daughter Roxanne and me–we included grilled cheese sandwiches on olive bread. I have to say I was a bit skeptical when I saw the texture of the soup coming through the other side of the strainer, but it was delicious. And, as Roxanne pointed out, good dipping for the grilled cheese. Thanks. Ken

  5. Yum – tomato soup and grill cheese are my favorite! Since childhood. This is a great recipe and great double use.
    I think it is hilarious that she had a “do-not buy” list up! and no it is not weird to look at other people’s cookbooks – I always do!

  6. It’s so funny we both wrote about this book and exact recipe! I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of the red pepper flakes as well, and don’t think I will dare to add too much more in the future haha. Great, easy recipe. Also, great post – nice photos!

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