This soup delivers summer’s vibrant flavors any time of year. Even lackluster tomatoes improve when they’re roasted in the oven for several hours at a low temperature. The juices concentrate and sweeten, creating the flavor of a long-simmered pasta sauce. Don’t be put off by the roasting time; it only takes a minute to prep the tomatoes. And simmering a whole chile in the soup doesn’t make it spicy; it adds depth and a smoky complexity. Serve with fresh herbs, such as basil, dill or oregano, crispy Parmesan toasts or a dollop of Mexican crema.
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved
Herbes de Provence, dried thyme or basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Pinch kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock or water, or a mixture of both
2 cans (28 ounces each) plum tomatoes in juice
1 dried chile pepper, such as ancho, pasilla or New Mexico
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Tomatoes: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Halve the tomatoes and squeeze each lengthwise to open the seed pockets. Place tomatoes, seed pockets facing up, on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and the dried herbs of your choice. Rub the seasonings evenly over the tomatoes. Roast about 8 hours, until they are shriveled but not blackened.
2. Soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek, onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Vegetables should not brown. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme and red pepper flakes, and cook 2–3 minutes, until fragrant.
3. Scrape up any vegetables sticking to the bottom of the pot, then add wine. Simmer until volume is reduced by half, then add stock or water, and stir. Add canned tomatoes with their juice, breaking them apart with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Add the dried chile and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the roasted tomatoes—including any rich, red tomato oil that has accumulated—and continue to simmer, partially covered, 30–40 minutes.
5. Remove the chile and bay leaves, and cool the soup briefly. Transfer soup to a blender, in batches if necessary, and purée until smooth.
6. Return soup to the pot and season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground pepper. If the soup seems too thick, thin it with a little water or stock. Garnish with Mexican crema or crème fraîche and fresh, chopped herbs, if desired, and serve.