Tomato-Vegetable Soup (for a Crowd)

We came up with this soup because we’re trying to lose weight, and we can’t stand the idea of depriving ourselves during the process. This is our favorite vegetable soup, with lots of flavor and body to it. We minimized fat and starches as much as possible, maximizing vegetable content, while keeping just enough of the “bad” ingredients to retain that full-bodied flavor and mouth feel. This soup is so thick it’s probably more properly termed a stew, and it makes a LOT — a 12-quart pot full, in fact.

If you’re on that Weight Watchers points-based system, by the way (no violation to their trademark or copyright intended), this is approximately 1 point for a small bowl (probably two points if you use a whole pound of pasta). We usually have a small bowl before meals to minimize how much of the “bad stuff” we eat.

Ingredients

Soup Base

  • tomato juice (58 oz total, usually one 46-oz can and one 11.5-oz can)
  • tomato puree (one 29-oz can)
  • diced tomato (one 14.5-oz can)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (We like Knorr bouillon for sheer flavor value)
  • 1 to 2 cups water

Vegetables and Pasta

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 head of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled
  • 10 oz white mushrooms, rinsed and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow (summer) squash, diced
  • 1 small jar roasted peppers, rinsed of oil and diced
  • 1/2 lb small pasta shapes (shells or macaroni work well)

Flavorings and Seasonings

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cognac (or sherry, red wine, sake, or other alcohol)
  • 3/4 teaspoon each: dried oregano and basil, ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: ground cayenne and cloves
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • salt to taste

Directions

Soup Base

Put all ingredients for the soup base in a large pot; I recommend a 12-quart pot. Add enough of the water to reach a thickness of soup that you like. Feel free to add less than 1 cup or more than 2 if you like.

Pasta

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. If you like excess pasta in your soups you can use an entire pound instead of half.

Vegetables

Shred the carrots with a vegetable peeler, and then cut them a little short so the pieces won’t be too difficult to fit in a spoon (or even better, grate using a food processor). We find that they take on more flavor from the soup and get more tender this way.

Heat the 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10-15 seconds. Add the rest of the vegetables. Cook, stirring now and then, until the harder vegetables (the pepper, zucchini and yellow squash) are softened. Add all of the contents of this pan to the soup base, including any liquid that has cooked out.

Flavorings

Add the teaspoon of olive oil and the cognac or other alcohol to the soup. Add the oregano, basil, black and white pepper, cayenne, cloves, and sugar. Add one teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat on high and bring the soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. When it reaches a simmer, turn down to low and continue to simmer (still stirring occasionally) for 15 minutes.

Add the pasta. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You will probably need to add up to 1 more teaspoon of salt and up to 2 Tablespoons extra sugar (I use low amounts in the directions so you can more easily suit the recipe to your taste). As always, feel free to muck with the seasonings as suits your tastes.

Note

Do not omit the olive oil and cognac or other alcohol, although you may if necessary substitute a vinegar (such as red wine vinegar) for the alcohol. You’ll notice that as it is, we’ve put very little of each ingredient in this soup. But there are flavors in tomato that are only soluble in fat, and flavors that are only soluble in alcohol. If you leave either entirely out, the soup will lack certain flavors that it should have.

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