Summary: Tomato soup is the ultimate in comfort. Much of the time, I prefer it to chicken noodle soup because of the thick, hearty factor and because I am a mad tomato lover. Plus, you can't dunk a grilled cheese in chicken soup, but life is better when you do so with tomato.
I love the subtle notes of hot pepper, lemon and saffron in my recipe, and after once adding white beans to get my sons to eat more soup, I decided I really loved their inclusion too.
This is a simple soup, so don't omit or skimp on ingredients. Each plays off the others in magic fashion.
A quick note about the canned tomatoes and salt amount. I usually make this soup using canned tomatoes that I put up over the summer. Because of that, there is a fair amount of salt going into the soup from the outset. Hence my extra addition of just a half-teaspoon. If you buy your canned tomatoes, which is wholly acceptable!!, you might need to add more salt to compensate. Just taste and let your tongue be the guide.
Please serve this with good bread, toasted, or a grilled cheese so that you can dunk with abandon.
Yield: about 6 servings
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup peeled and slivered shallots
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 small dried peperoncino intero (whole; Italian hot chile pepper); I've included a picture below of the size ones I use; you can also substitute a generous pinch of crushed red pepper
- 7 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juices
- the zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- small handful of fresh basil, chopped
- a pinch of saffron threads
- 1 Pecorino or Parmesan rind (this is a very important element; if you don't save your cheese rinds, ask the cheese monger at your local market. Whole Foods, for example, sells Parm rinds)
- 1 can of cannelini (or Great Northern or white) beans, drained and rinsed
In a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat, pour the olive oil. When it's warm, add the shallots, garlic, and peperoncini. Stirring regularly, cook until the shallots and garlic are soft and fragrant but not brown. This will take several minutes.
When things are golden and lovely, add the tomatoes and their juices, the lemon zest, kosher salt, chopped basil, saffron and cheese rind. Stir to evenly incorporate everything. Adjust the heat, if necessary, to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, tasting as you go. Does the flavor seem to be growing more complex? Are the various flavors coalescing? The answers need to be yes, so if not, keep cooking gently and stirring regularly. 20-30 minutes is sufficient on my stove.
When you are satisfied with the taste, add the beans and stir to combine them into the soup. Cook another 5-10 minutes to make sure the temperature is consistent throughout. Serve immediately or let cool and then refrigerate until you want it.
You can make this up to two days ahead!