Ciao'd over ticking another Oscar-nominated movie off my list.
It’s raining or snowing somewhere. Roasted Tomato Soup with Rice, accompanied by Parmesan Parsley Toast, is just the ticket for keeping you warm and your stomach happy. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes make the soup quick and easy.
You’ll spend most of your time (and not a lot) making the soffritto. Soffritto is the Italian version of the French mirepoix. Both are a combination of aromatics such as celery, carrot, and onion that form the flavor foundation for the soup. The vegetables in the soffritto should be finely chopped so they cook, or should I say, almost melt into the oil. Begin with a cold pan and an ample amount of olive oil. Add the vegetables, turn the heat to medium, and cook slowly. It’s perfectly fine to add complementary flavors to the soffritto such as garlic and herbs. A splash of white wine never hurt either.
One of my favorite and most accomplished Italian cooks, Emiko Davies, has a great piece about soffritto on her blog. It’s informative and fascinating. Check it out here.
One more thing about making deeply flavored, satisfying soup: the pot you cook it in counts. I am partial to enameled cast iron for its ability to hold the gentle heat that facilitates a meltingly rich soffritto and a soft simmer. Plus, it looks great, goes from stovetop to table, and YES! enameled cast iron is super easy to clean. I am partial to the Staub 5-quart Cocotte. The lid fits snugly and the wide handles make it easy to grip with dishtowels (what I use) or oven mitts. This is not a plug for Staub. Well I guess it is, but it’s on me. No $$ changed hands. If you want to learn more, visit Staub.
ROASTED TOMATO SOUP WITH RICE AND PARMESAN TOAST
This is a chunky tomato soup with pleasing textures gleaned from the diced tomatoes and rice. The fire-roasted tomatoes add a pleasant depth of flavor.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, about 3 inches each
3 large leaves fresh sage
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
one 14-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
Dash or two of red pepper (optional)
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup rice
Handful chopped fresh parsley or chopped fresh basil
Parmesan Parsley Toast
4 slices Italian bread, about 1/2-inch each
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary, and sage in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Increase the heat to high. Add the tomato paste and red wine. Once the red wine has just about evaporated, add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to boil, lower the heat, add the rice and simmer until the rice is just tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, use a fork to mash the butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and black pepper. Spread evenly on each slice of bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
Remove the rosemary sprigs and sage leaves from the soup. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the parsley or basil (and a splash of wine, if you like) and serve along with the Parmesan Parsley Toast. If not serving with the toast, pass Parmesan at the table.