Anyone a big fan of Panera’s Tomato Bisque? I may have found a recipe as good or better. That’s a bold claim, I know. It began with this recipe from Food & Wine. But, then I added a few healthy spins to it–ones that did not sacrifice taste in any way I assure you!
The result was a huge home run with my entire family and a few of our friends on New Year’s Eve. I’m talking picky little kids and foodie adults, people. There are few recipes in my repertoire that I can honestly say that about.
My kids affectionately called it “ketchup soup,” in honor of their favorite condiment (and side dish). My husband and I just call it a soup worthy of a special occasion or any night.
Here are a few things you may want to know before making this soup:
- I wrote the recipe for a crowd or for your family to have enough to freeze for later. If you want just enough for one 4 person meal, just simply cut it in half.
- Seasoning all along the way is key to deep flavor. Season with S & P when you saute the veggies, season again when you add the liquids, and finally season at the end after tasting. But, don’t get too heavy-handed at the get go!
- We also loved the kicked-up addition of the hot sauce at the end. I just left it out of the kids’ bowls.
Add a gourmet grilled cheese along side this soup, and you’ve got the perfect winter comfort food. Plus, you’ll have just fed your family a bowl full of vegetables!
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 celery rib, chopped
- 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 8 cups (2 quarts) organic low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- Two 28-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained (look for BPA-free cans)
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste (look for BPA-free cans)
- 4 teaspoons sugar (I used unrefined raw sugar)
- ½-3/4 cup half and half
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- hot sauce, to taste
- 1 cup croutons, for garnish (optional)
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Then, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for 1 minute, or until flour is fully incorporated. Add the bay leaves, chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. Season lightly with more with salt and pepper, if you'd like. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer (over about medium heat) and cover partially. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until fairly smooth. (Note: Please be careful during this step! Don't fill the blender full, and cover the lid with a towel and hold securely while blending so the lid doesn't pop off.) Carefully, return the puree to the saucepan.
- Add the half and half and cook over medium-low until the soup is just heated through. Taste and then season the soup with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to your preference. Swirl in the 4 tablespoons of butter. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with croutons, fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, and serve.