There is tomato soup, and then there is Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Ricotta. If you love tomatoes, you will love this soup. Combining sweet red peppers with ripe red tomatoes enhances both. Roast them to intensify their bold flavors and colors, then simmer briefly, and then puree into creamy soup without one drop of butter or cream. Optional, garnish with small dollops of fresh low-fat ricotta and swirl. Not only is it beautiful, it deliciously changes this soup by simply adding a small amount of fresh cheese. Perhaps double this recipe and serve the soup without ricotta one time, then with leftover soup, add ricotta. Serve the same day as made or cool then refrigerate up to two days. Serve warm, room temperature, or slightly chilled.
4 servings, 2 cups soup per serving. Cooking time is about 45 minutes.
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup:
3 tablespoons (44 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound (454 g) sweet red peppers (4 large)
1 fresh hot red pepper, optional
1 pound (454 g) firm ripe red plum tomatoes (8 large)
1 or 2 small whole garlic cloves, split with skin on
Fresh thyme sprigs
4 cups (32 ounces or 946 ml) vegetable or chicken broth, or as needed to cover, preferably homemade
Salt to taste
Pinch dried ground cayenne red pepper, optional
Roasted large cherry tomatoes (heirloom or a variety)
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh low-fat ricotta cheese (any milk), optional
1. Roasting Red Peppers and Tomatoes for 30 minutes: Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C/ Gas Mark 6. Rinse the sweet peppers (and hot pepper if using), drain. Remove the stems and discard. Split into quarters. Scrape out the seeds and discard. Rinse and drain the whole plum tomatoes for the soup, and the whole cherry tomatoes for the garnish.
Place all in an ovenproof roasting pan spreading out in one layer. Add the split garlic "en chemise" as we say, with skin on, to sweetly roast without burning. Drizzle with olive oil, lightly season to taste with salt, and toss together. Tuck in fresh thyme sprigs.
Place in the center of the oven and roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove the cherry tomatoes and reserve for the garnish. Toss the ingredients again and spread out in one layer for even roasting. Place back into the oven and roast uncovered for another 15 minutes or until very fragrant. Peppers and tomatoes will be soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down. Slip off and discard the skin from the garlic. Reserve the garlic for the soup or for another use. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.
2. Simmering the Soup for 10 minutes: For the roasted peppers, leave the skin on or remove, your choice. Slip-off the tomato skins and discard. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, scrape out the seeds. (If the peppers and tomatoes are finely chopped then simmered in broth, they lose their deep flavor, so leave them quartered.) Put the roasted peppers and tomatoes, and roasted garlic if including, into a pot. Pour in enough broth to just cover the ingredients. Season to taste with salt, and ground cayenne pepper if including. Over medium heat, simmer for about 10 minutes, only enough time to blend but not overcook to the point of becoming mushy. Remove from the heat.
Scoop out the peppers and tomatoes and transfer them to a bowl, include or discard the garlic, reserve the cooking broth. Puree them with an immersion or stand blender, adding the cooking broth as needed to thin out to the consistency you like. (Probably all of the cooking broth will be needed.) Taste and season. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or up to two days for flavors to deepen and blend.
3. Serving Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup – Warm, Room Temperature, or Slightly Chilled: Taste the soup and adjust the salt, and cayenne pepper if included. In a pot over low heat, warm the soup for serving warm or room temperature. If serving the soup chilled remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. Remember chilled soup sometimes requires more seasoning.
Ladle the soup into broad soup bowls. Garnish with the reserved roasted cherry tomatoes, whole or split, and fresh basil leaves. Place some ricotta in a bowl and smooth it out with a spoon or spatula. If thick, it will need a few drops of its whey, water, or milk to thin out. Then place small dollops in the soup and run the thin blade of a paring knife through these dollops making swirls. Enjoy.