Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Chunky Tomato-Bell Pepper Soup with Cheese Toasts

By Leslie Budewitz

As writers of books obsessed with food, sometimes we stumble over recipes that would be perfect for a book—but we just turned it in, or it just went past edits to the “don’t even sneeze, we’re going to print” stage, and it’s too late.

Which is one reason we love sharing recipes with you on this blog.

If I had made this soup a few months ago, it would be featured in ASSAULT AND PEPPER, a book set in early fall, the time when we start thinking about soup. But hey, it’s February, and in my neck of the woods—and probably yours—that’s prime soup season. The smoked paprika gives this an unexpected woodsy flavor. Fresh basil is widely available year-round, even in my small mountain town, although I’ll confess, I made this one night with a sprinkle of dried basil on top and it still tasted marvelous.

Chunky Tomato-Bell Pepper Soup with Cheese Toasts
Adapted from Country Living Magazine

The Soup:
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste (if you have to open a can to make the recipe, go ahead and use the whole can; it will thicken the soup, but in my house, no one complains!)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 - 28 ounce can or 2 - 15 ounce cans diced or crushed tomatoes (if you find a variety with basil, even better)
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use Pacific Organics, low sodium)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

 Grilled Cheese Toasts
one thick slice of fresh bread or three slices of baguette per serving; sourdough, multi-grain, or French all work beautifully
olive oil
one clove garlic
2 tablespoons grated cheese per serving; cheddar, Parmesan, or Asiago are particularly tasty

In a large Dutch oven or soup kettle, heat the butter and saute the peppers and onions 8-10 minutes or until golden and tender. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and paprika, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. 

Make the toasts: Preheat oven to broil. If your broiler has multiple settings, choose the low setting and adjust the rack accordingly. Drizzle olive oil on each slice of bread. Rub with garlic. Top with grated cheese. Broil 2-3 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly. Cut the toasts in half diagonally, or let them cool slightly and cut them into croutons.

While toasts are broiling, stir the cream and basil into the soup and season with additional salt and pepper. Serve, with the toasts or croutons. 

Makes 6 servings, more or less, because when it comes to soup, who’s counting? And it reheats nicely. I resisted the temptation to draw a smiley face on the soup, but you don't have to!

ASSAULT AND PEPPER, March 3, 2015 (Berkley Prime Crime)
available for pre-order now.

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books).

Connect with her on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter, @LeslieBudewitz


  1. Leslie, that tomato soup looks thick and delicious, and I can't imagine anything better to serve it with than grilled cheese toasts! Thanks for the recipe ~

  2. The soup is so pretty! Smoked paprika is great stuff--I'm a late convert. And you're right--this is great soup weather.

    1. Some smoked paprikas are hotter than others; we've got one, from Penzey's IIRC, that's got itty bitty chunks and seeds, and another that's more consistently granulated. Both are excellent!

  3. Looks yummy! As soon as we finish eating the HUGE pot of beef vegetable soup I made on Sunday, I'm trying this.

    1. One challenge to soup -- sometimes you end up with enough for a crowd!

  4. What a lovely soup. I can almost smell it.
    As to tomato paste--I scoop out tablespoon amounts onto a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once frozen, into a zip lock bag and the freezer. Then I have tomato paste when I want without having to worry about what to do with the whole can.

    Or, use it all and make a deliciously thickened soup!

    1. Oh, now that is brilliant. Thanks, Libby! Freeze them on waxed or parchment paper, then pop them right off.

  5. This sounds very good! Thanks for this wonderful blog! You guys come up with such good recipes!

    1. Thanks, Elaine! As the newbie here, I too am in awe of these women -- more than 2,000 recipes in the archive!

  6. What a perfect meal for meatless Mondays, Leslie. I love the toasts, too! I may plant extra peppers this year and freeze them for this soup!

  7. Send me your charm for getting bell peppers to ripen. Oh, sunshine and warm temps. I'll work on it!