Be sure to pick up a copy of today’s Tennessean, where this recipe for Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone (excerpted below) is featured in my monthly blogs column.
For some, tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food. I totally get it. On a dreary day, a warm bowl of soup and a crispy, buttery grilled cheese do wonders to lighten the mood.
But I’ll be honest when I tell you I’ve never been a fan. Granted, my only real exposure to the stuff was from an iconic red and white can, but still, something about the flavor just never sat right with me. Could be the fact that, as a child, I was a tomato-hater, and turned up my nose at anything they touched (other than pizza, of course, but that was only because the tomato was disguised underneath a thick layer of cheese).
Even as an adult, when my taste buds matured and I finally realized that tomatoes weren’t, in fact, evil, but rather quite spectacular, tomato soup was still never up there on my list of favorite foods, let alone comfort foods.
This summer marked a first for me: the first time I actually made tomato soup (because why put all that time and effort into something you don’t like?). A travesty, I know, because a good tomato soup should be a part of every home cook’s repertoire. I don’t know what sparked it or what came over me, but I put it on our weekly menu. It was time to give soup a chance.
And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Quite the opposite, actually. I really surprised myself with this one. It probably didn’t hurt that I added a heaping scoop of fresh mascarpone cheese at the end. You know, for good measure.
While tomato soup recipes often call for tomatoes in myriad forms (fresh, roasted, canned, pasted, sun-dried, pureed or chopped, just to name a few), this soup intentionally highlights the gorgeous, perfectly-ripe tomatoes that currently grace our local markets. The last of the late summer crop are arguably the best tomatoes of the year (perhaps second only to the long awaited first bite in June). The heat truly brings out the sweetness of this often under-appreciated fruit. And in this recipe, the tomato is the star, giving the soup and flavor a brightness that off-season or canned tomatoes just can’t beat.
Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about ¾ cup chopped)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced (about ½ cup chopped)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
5 ripe medium tomatoes* (about 2 pounds), cored and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup mascarpone cheese**
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and sauté until translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.
Add the tomato paste and stir until all the vegetables are evenly coated. Add the white wine and cook for about a minute or until the liquid is mostly evaporated, stirring to incorporate any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add tomatoes and their juices along with the sugar and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and just beginning to break down. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Transfer to a blender or food processor (working in batches if necessary, and be careful when blending hot foods!) and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan set over medium-low heat until heated through; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add mascarpone and stir until smooth and serve warm with crusty bread.
* While the perfectly ripe, peak-season tomatoes are what make this soup truly special, during the rest of the year you can substitute a 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes.
** Mascarpone is a soft fresh cheese similar to cream cheese. You can find it locally at some grocery stores, Whole Foods or Lazzaroli Pasta in Germantown. Substitute heavy cream if you can’t find it.