Tomato-Fennel Soup

serves 10

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (fronds removed and reserved for garnish)

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 (28-ounce) cans whole San Marzano tomatoes with juice, chopped

3 sprigs of fresh parsley

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

6 cups chicken stock

1 cup half-and-half

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the fennel, onions, carrots, and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and tomatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Tie the parsley and thyme together with a piece of kitchen twine.  Add the herb bouquet and the chicken stock to the vegetables.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Add the half-and-half and bring the mixture back to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool.

Discard the herb bouquet.  Using a hand-held immersion blender or standing blender, blend the soup until desired consistency.  (For a finer texture soup, pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer.)  Return the soup to the stove and warm through.  Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy!

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