A good dose of rain over the past few weeks blessed my little town with lush green hillsides and blooming backyard roses, spurring a craving for meals that warm you from the inside out after a day’s worth of rain boot stomping and umbrella wielding. As we’re now teetering on the edge of springtime and looking towards summer, perhaps a whopping bowl of hot soup may not be a viable option for this week’s dinner due to a sunny locality, but for the unexpected June thunderstorm and the last rainy days of spring, this makes for a comforting meal when the weather turns. Keep this recipe tucked away for when you find yourself craving soup, for now and for six months from now, whether it’s the way the clouds are rolling in or a simple pang of wanting.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 28 oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
8 cups filtered water
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
2 generous teaspoons herbes de Provence
1/2 cup whole milk (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the onion, cooking over medium-low heat until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to brown on the bottom of the pot. Then, add the wine and the balsamic vinegar, scraping up any bits at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to simmer for about 5 minutes or until it’s reduced a bit.
Add the San Marzano tomatoes with their juices, 8 cups of filtered water, the sugar, nutmeg, and herbes de Provence. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down and allow the soup to simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.
After the soup has simmered for 1 hour, it should be reduced by about 1/4th of its volume. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until there are no bits of tomato or onion left and it’s quite smooth. Add the milk (optional, and if you do, be sure not to allow the soup to boil after adding it), and the salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with torn pieces of toasted bread and a sprinkling of cheese on top.