I adore soups but the one thing that prevents me from eating them more often for dinner is that I feel that they often lack body. This soup bears no such accusations, for when it is done, it is more like a tomato stew. With the onset of the brutal chill this month, I have been pushed into full soup making mode, almost kicking and screaming (where did the hot weather go? There was no warning or gentle easing). There are advantages to cold weather though: coats, boots and comfort food. And soup is undoubtedly comfort food, especially when it's paired with crispy meatball croutons.
I admit I usually find croutons a bit of a disappointment unless they're homemade. The ones that come in packets aren't nearly as good as they look and one afternoon I was contemplating making my own croutons for a tomato soup when I saw that my bread really wasn't anywhere near stale enough which meant that I needed to dry it out. So I considered a tastier version of the crouton which was more of a cross between a meatball and a crouton. Certainly the ratio of bread to meat was fairly similar which I knew would make it beautifully crispy and light. I always prefer to up the amount of fresh breadcrumbs if I am seeking comfort.
The soup was thicker (and therefore more satisfying) than I anticipated. Once I added the Orzo it sucked up a lot of the liquid although I didn't think this was such a bad thing as it made the soup more full bodied. And in turn it meant that this was a brilliant standalone dish for a week day dinner.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a Winter or Summer person? What do you like about that particular season?
Full-Bodied Tomato Soup with Crispy Meatball Croutons
An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella
1 tablespoon oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2x 400g tins of tomatoes or 800grams of fresh tomatoes blanched, skins removed and chopped
140g tin tomato paste
1 litre beef or vegetable stock
100g orzo (rice shaped pasta)
150grams good quality Italian sausages, skins removed
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
150grams fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of oil for frying
Step 1 - In a large saucepan, heat oil and fry onions on medium heat until clear and soft. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and beef stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, shape meatballs into small crouton sized balls by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and mixing thoroughly with clean hands and then rolling them out in your palm (wetting your hands lightly will mean that they don't stick to your hands as much). Set aside on a tray - you can do these ahead of time and refrigerate if you wish.
Step 3 - When the soup has about 10 minutes to go, add another cup of boiling water and bring it to the boil. Add the orzo and cook it for 5 minutes. The soup will start to thicken with the orzo in it.
Step 4 - While the soup is cooking, in a large frypan heat oil and fry the meatballs in two lots until crispy.
Step 5 - Ladle soup into cups or bowls and dot with Crispy Meatball Croutons.