My soup recipe collection has really grown as of late. We love homemade soup all year long, especially in the winter. The weather here has been a roller coaster this year...we go from spring-like temperatures to Arctic cold overnight. As a rule, during the winter, I make at least one batch of homemade soup once a week....sometimes more. I love soups loaded with vegetables and a hearty broth. Bob loves them with some kind of protein....see, he's a "Where's the meat? kind of guy.
I have quite a collection of specialty cooking magazines here, and a good number of them pertain to soups. While browsing through them to look for some new ideas, I came across this recipe with a very tempting photograph alongside. I've made tomato based soups like Minestrone before, but hadn't made one that had tomatoes as the "star" of the soup. As many magazines as I looked through, I kept going back to this recipe and photo. That was a signal to me to give it a try.
The recipe goes together in no time at all. I stayed pretty true to the original, adding some Italian seasoning to the broth for another level of flavor. I also used my homemade chicken stock instead of canned broth. If you want to keep this totally vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
When the pasta was done cooking and I looked at what I had for a finished product in the pan, I wasn't happy. It was too "watery"...and in tasting it, it didn't have the tomato punch I wanted. Solution? Tomato paste-a couple rounded tablespoons stirred into the hot broth at the end was all that soup needed to give me the depth of tomato flavor I was looking for. It added just the right richness and slight thickness to the broth. PERFECT! I tasted one last time, adjusted the seasoning, and I was happy.
The soup sat overnight in the refrigerator waiting for lunch the next day. Once heated through, a sprinkle of parsley and shredded cheese is all that was needed.
One spoonful was all it took to know I had a winner. The tomato and herb flavor was even fuller the next day, with a nice background of onion, garlic and a touch of celery. The ditalini adds just enough bulk to make the soup filling-which made Bob happy. He didn't even say "It would be better with some chicken..."-that's always a good sign!
Seeing those diced tomatoes made me feel like I was eating soup made with tomatoes from my garden, which makes me think summertime-and on a cold winter day, that's a VERY pleasant thought.
Not only is this soup easy, it's a great one to make just before grocery shopping. It uses ingredients I always have in the cupboard and refrigerator. If I didn't have celery in the crisper drawer, I'd omit it and add more onion...or maybe a couple of finely diced carrots. No diced tomatoes? Use canned whole tomatoes cut into pieces. That's what I love about recipes like this. They're so versatile and can adapt to whatever ingredients you have on hand.
This recipe is in my regular rotation-not only is it quick and easy, it's one super delicious tomato soup.
TOMATO DITALINI SOUP
(Source: adapted from Cuisine Splendid Soups and Stews magazine)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. finely diced onion
1/2 c. finely diced celery
2 cloves garlic, finely minced, then "pasted"
2 (14 1/2 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 c. homemade chicken stock OR low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted)
1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 c. ditalini OR orzo pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
Chopped fresh parsley
Shredded Romano OR Parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, Italian seasoning and ditalini. Bring the soup to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the tomato paste and stir until it dissolves into the broth and the soup is slightly thickened. If you like a thicker soup, add more tomato paste, then adjust the seasonings to taste. The heaping 2 Tbsp. was the perfect consistency for us.
Serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkling of shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese. 4 servings.
NOTE: Sometimes the pasta can "drink" up the broth in soup when it sits in the refrigerator overnight. I fix that by adding a touch more broth when I heat it up or in this soup, a glug or so of V-8 juice works great if I have it on hand.