chunky red pepper soup with orzo + herb oil
This was one of those recipes that I could have kept adding more and more “and”s to but I had to stop myself.
Like I could have added chorizo or Italian sausage, making it chunky red pepper soup with orzo AND herb oil AND chorizo/Italian sausage.
And then I thought about adding cheese, making it chunky red pepper soup with orzo AND chorizo/Italian sausage AND cheese.
And then I thought it could also be really really good with bits of potato in it, making it chunky red pepper soup with orzo AND chorizo/Italian sausage AND cheese AND bits of potato.
But I stopped myself because, well, what we have here? It’s pretty darn near perfect as it is.
Christmas season = soup season in our house, though that season extends far beyond December 25, too. Because I have emotional connections to my food (it’s true), I need comfort like whoa in the winter and soup does it for me. Especially a chunky veggie soup with little pasta pieces in it and a bright herby oil drizzle on top. And dipping bread on the side, of course.
Side note slash fun fact: I did not intend for this soup to look so red-green Christmasy but I’m kind of glad it worked out that way. Accidental festiveness.
I found the recipe for this soup in one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, “Homemade” by Yvette Van Boven (also, I kind of wish I had a name as cool as hers). The book is chock full of homey, comforting recipes, this soup being no exception (it’s the same cookbook from which I made this equally tasty sweet potato soup). And after surviving the first real snowstorm of the year while the husband was out of town, leaving me to take care of all the shoveling/snowblowing duties (and by “take care,” I mean asking my father-in-law to bail me out by doing it for me), it was time for soup season to begin.
Here are my suggestions for this soup: Leave the red pepper bits a little chunky, like 1-inch pieces. It adds awesome texture and you can actually taste the roasted pepper flavor, then. Also, feel free to use your own combination of herbs for the oil. I liked how the parsley and tarragon in my version brightened up the flavors of this soup, but I can also see basil (what the original recipe calls for) or chives working well, too. Finally, dipping bread is highly recommended. And if you want to add chorizo/Italian sausage/cheese/potato to it, as well, you have my full support.
For the soup:
- 4 red bell peppers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 (14 oz) can peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1 cup orzo
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the herb oil:
- 1 bunch fresh parsley (or herb of your choice)
- 1 bunch fresh tarragon (or herb of your choice)
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- Light the burners on a gas stove to medium-high heat. Place a pepper on each burner and roast, rotating until all the skin is black (alternatively, if you don’t have a gas stove, you can use your oven broiler to roast the peppers).
- Transfer peppers to a plastic bag or a large bowl; seal or cover with plastic wrap.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil, then add onions. Cook onions 5 minutes until lightly caramelized. Add garlic and tomatoes; stir. Add 2 cups broth.
- Simmer soup over medium heat 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, remove peppers from bag or bowl. Peel off the skins (you can do this under cold running water if it helps). Cut peppers and remove seeds and stem. Slice peppers into 1-inch pieces and add to soup. Add remaining vegetable broth to soup.
- Puree mixture briefly with an immersion blender (or pulse a few times in a regular blender), enough to leave it equally chunky and smooth. Return pot to stovetop over medium heat; stir in orzo, orange zest and juice. Cook 5 minutes more until orzo is al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the herb oil: In a food processor, process herbs until minced. With food processor running, drizzle in oil until mixture is smooth. Add salt to taste.
- Drizzle oil over warm soup. Serve with crusty, cheesy bread for dipping.
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