Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chunky Tomato & Herb Soup with Spinach, Walnut Pesto

This recipe was inspired by a little American bistro that I used to frequent in Myrtle Beach, SC. The tiny place was locally owned and they had the best chunky, tomato soup. It was sweet, fresh, full of herbs, and loaded with huge chunks of juicy tomatoes. Even though the soup was chunky, it was still luxuriously silky; just an incredible bowl of soup. We moved away from SC to NY and I began a mission to recreate this soup! Besides we have 5 months of snow here. You are bound to want a huge, pipping hot, bowl of soup at some point. I love to use fresh tomatoes when I can, but in the winter, when soup is the best they are definitely not in season so I opt. for organic canned ones. My favorite canned tomatoes are Muir Glen, they are not overly tinny, which can happen with canned tomatoes, and I love the affordability. For a quality canned tomato they are always my go to. I often freeze or can my own tomatoes when I can, but this doesn't always happen, hey I am not perfect. I have made this soup in a few different variations (chipotle, roasted garlic), but this particular recipe is my absolute favorite one. It's loaded with fresh herbs such as; oregano, thyme, basil and garlic. These herbs go so well with the sweet, creamy tomatoes, it's like eating pizza soup!

Let's talk about soup toppings! I just love making a humble soup look like a 4 star dish by garnishing it with some gorgeous toppings. Some of my favorite toppings for tomato soup are: a dollop of mascarpone cheese, shredded mozzarella, crumbled goat cheese, fresh toasted bread crumbs or a homemade pesto, like the one pictured above. This pesto is spicy, and melts beautifully into the soup creating an even deeper herb flavor. I make my pesto for this soup with super healthy and unique ingredients. First, instead of an all basil base, I sub in half spinach. I find that an all basil pesto can overpower the other flavors in the tomato soup, and who doesn't want to pack in the nutrients when they can; spinach is a huge bang for your buck in the health department! Pine nuts can be very expensive so I substitute with heart healthy walnuts. The walnuts are not only super healthy, but they are slightly more bitter and "meatier" than the pine nuts which gives the pesto a really rich taste. This pesto recipe is great on anything, and can be frozen for up to 6 months. Feel free to make a huge batch when basil is at it's peak and freeze it for use all winter long!

So, as you can see, there is absolutely no need to open a can of tomato soup when you can make this incredible homemade one in 20 minutes. It's lower in salt, it's healthier, super delicious and completely luxurious. Your family will feel like they are eating at an American bistro without even leaving home. Serve this satisfying soup with a grilled cheese or small salad and you have a great, easy and healthy meal that is full of antioxidants!



2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Cloves organic garlic, minced or grated.
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Tbsp organic tomato paste
2 (14oz) Cans organic, fire roasted tomatoes, I use Muir Glen.
1 Cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh, organic thyme, leaves only, chopped.
1 Tbsp fresh, organic oregano, leaves only, chopped.
7 Fresh, organic basil leaves, roughly chopped.
1 tsp fair trade, organic raw cane sugar
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste.
1/2 Cup pasture raised 2% organic milk, I like my soup very chunky and thick, use more if you like a thinner consistency.


1 Cup fresh, organic basil leaves
1 Cup fresh, organic spinach leaves, preferably baby spinach.
3 Organic garlic cloves, chopped roughly.
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 Cup walnuts, raw and unsalted.
1/3 Cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated.
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste.


In a sauce pan, over medium heat, drizzle in olive oil and saute garlic and onions with salt a pepper till translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add in tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add in canned tomatoes and vegetable broth. Cook for 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally.

Ladle half the soup into a blender, do not fill the blender more than half full and leave the top open slightly. The heat will make the top blow off if you fill it too high and do not let the steam escape. I put a dish towel over top to keep it from splattering. Blend on low till the steam escapes and then turn up to high until it is smooth. Add it back to the pan. Add in herbs, cane sugar and salt a pepper to taste. Cook for 3 minutes. Add in milk and whisk to combine, remove from heat and serve with a dollop of pesto on top or whatever you favorite topping happens to be! I have been known to get crazy and fry and egg and put it on top of my soup too!!


Add all ingredients except olive oil, salt and pepper, into a food processor. Pulse till it resembles wet sand. With the food processor on lowest speed drizzle in olive oil slowly and process till it is smooth. Turn off the processor and taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze the pesto; I like to freeze mine in a flexible ice tray. I spoon in about a Tbsp in each ice cube, freeze and then pop the cubes out and store in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. I thaw them in the fridge before use, or use directly from the freezer when throwing them in at the end of a soup or sauce. Some recipes I have seen over the years say not to add in the cheese if you are freezing but I have never had a problem with this, so feel free to do either/or.

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