February 20, 2023 Jump to recipe

tomato carrot soup and garlic bread

an easy project for the tail end of winter

My favourite tomato soup has five pantry ingredients (including olive oil), is easily made vegan, and piggybacks on its companion garlic bread recipe for a (technically optional) drizzle of garlic-infused oil. And since the garlic bread recipe makes more of said oil than you’ll need, the rest of your week can piggyback on that too—so every fried egg on toast, piece of chicken or salmon or steak, or emergency bowl of rice is that much more delicious with zero extra effort. Because people, it’s late February, which is when I finally let myself get excited for the produce we’re a month out from—while also being weirdly pre-nostalgic about the slow season. 

4 slices of parsley-topped garlic bread laid out on a baking sheet

It’s like waking up two minutes before your alarm goes off and simultaneously gearing up for the day (assuming there’s good breakfast to be had) and wistfully cozy, because you know you’ll soon have to throw off the covers, put on your grownup hat and do stuff in the world. But not yet. There’s a storm coming this week, and even though the grass is mostly bare right now, it’ll get its white blanket back for a little while. There’s still time to drowse; still time to gather my strength.

While we’re drowsing, let’s take a second to chat about cinnamon and tomatoes—cinnamon being one of the aforementioned five soup ingredients. Tomato, especially from a can, can be a little shrill. The barest pinch of cinnamon in a soup or sauce—not quite enough to announce itself—keys it down, adds a note of warmth, removes any tinniness, and even enhances our perception of the tomato’s sweetness. That’s due partly to the science of cinnamaldehyde, its main flavour compound, and partly to the magic of flavour perception. At least to the western palate, we associate cinnamon with dessert, which makes our brains think “sweet” even in the absence of sugar. 

The rest of the soup is so simple it’s barely a recipe. We pluck whole tomatoes out of a can and onto a baking sheet with carrot coins, and roast at a high temperature to concentrate the vegetables’ sweetness. If there’s one thing to know about low-effort, high-reward cooking—especially in the soup game—roast vegetables before you get them into a pot. It’s the easiest and most economical way to help them be their best selves. Then, it’s just a matter of adding broth, letting everyone mingle for a while, and blending.

garlic cloves simmering in butter and oil caramelized garlic in butter and oil

While that’s happening, a head’s worth of whole garlic takes an extended vacation in a mixture of butter and olive oil, getting a nice tan and trading its attitude for a sweeter disposition. But because a little attitude is always welcome in my house, we grate in 3 cloves of raw garlic at the end. When all is said and done, you can drizzle a bit of extra garlic oil on your soup to bring it all together. Fresh tomatoes, see you in a few months—I’ll be okay till then. 

tomato carrot soup and garlic bread

tomato carrot soup

whole, peeled tomatoes one 28oz can*
carrots 2 heaping cups, peeled and cut into coins
olive oil 1 tablespoon
chicken or vegetable broth 1 litre
cinnamon a little less than 1/8 teaspoon
sugar a small pinch (optional)
kosher salt and black pepper

*Ideally, you want the higher end of canned tomatoes—this is the time to spring for your San Marzano, Bianco di Napoli, or even a San Marzano-style “Italian tomato” (a little friendlier to the wallet). Generally, you want your tomatoes oblong rather than round, which is typically depicted on the can. I know, I know—it sounds super nitpicky, but round tomatoes tend to be watery and have thinner flesh, which means less concentrated tomato flavour. And if you can, buy tomatoes in a thick puree, rather than in juice (check the ingredients list). Because again, less moisture = more tomato punch. 

garlic bread

garlic 1 head, peeled, plus 3 cloves (divided)
butter 1 stick
extra-virgin olive oil 1/3 cup
parmigiano reggiano 1/3 cup, finely grated
parsley 1/4 cup, minced
ciabatta or baguette 4 long slices
kosher salt and black pepper

roast the vegetables

Preheat the oven to 425F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the carrot coins with the olive oil and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Spread them out on the sheet with the tomatoes, plucked from the can (reserve the can juices). Roast for 25 minutes, or till the carrots are mostly soft—we’re not going for much browning, but there will be some.

Bonus points: as you pluck out the tomatoes, squeeze a little water from the their insides back into the can. This is more fun than it reasonably should be and helps encourage the roasting process.

infuse the oil and butter

While the vegetables roast, melt the butter and olive oil over low heat in a medium pot. Add the whole, peeled garlic (reserving your three extra cloves). Gently simmer till the garlic is lightly browned and sweet-tasting, about 30 minutes. Use a fork to crush the garlic into the oil. Grate the remaining cloves into the mix with a microplane, add a good pinch of salt and stir.

Transfer to a bowl—you’ll use the pot for the soup, and there’s no need to wash in between.

cook the soup

Transfer the roasted vegetables to your garlic pot and add the remaining can juices, broth, cinnamon, around ten grinds of black pepper and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Blend until smooth, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular one. Taste for seasoning—add a tiny pinch of sugar if you think it needs a little something besides salt.

make the garlic bread

If you have a pastry brush, use it to cover the bread, edge to edge, with the garlic oil/butter, spooning on some of the crushed garlic. Or just use a spoon, being careful not to oversaturate the bread. You’ll have plenty of infused oil left over (you’re welcome).

Top each slice with the parmesan and pop under a broiler for three to five minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Watch it carefully (it’s okay to leave the oven door cracked open while you’re broiling)—it’s entirely possible your broiler is more powerful than mine, in which case your bread might burn before the three minute mark. Finish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle more salt.

finish and serve

Serve a slice of garlic bread with each bowl of soup. If you like, drizzle a bit of the garlic oil onto each bowl and top with more black pepper.