Recipe Review

Bon Appetit’s Tomato Soup Features Lots of Little Twists on a Classic

published Jan 16, 2023
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Bon Appetit's tomato soup in a bowl.
Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately drawn to the styling of the photo for Carla’s Tomato Soup on Bon Appetit, created by chef and cookbook author Carla Lalli Music. A bowl of soup, toasty bread, and a table scattered with tiny plastic toys. Tomato soup is pure nostalgia, and I love that it evoked that feeling before I even entered the kitchen. 

Looking at the recipe, I was intrigued by the inclusion of fennel and smoked paprika. It seemed like a little twist on a classic that would be new but still familiar. I was optimistic about the direction this soup was going to go. 

Get the recipe: Bon Appetit’s Carla’s Tomato Soup

How To Make Carla’s Tomato Soup

You start off by peeling and finely slicing six shallots and a bulb of fennel, then cook them down until very soft. Fennel seeds, smoked paprika, and cayenne are added before stirring in two cans of whole tomatoes. The soup is simmered for 30 minutes, then blended with butter and water. After the soup is done, thick slices of country bread are fried in olive oil to serve alongside. 

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

My Honest Review of Carla’s Tomato Soup

Making this soup was pretty straightforward. The fussiest part was peeling and slicing all of the shallots. The soup is simmered without any additional stock or water, so you have to keep a closer eye on it, stirring more often to make sure the bottom isn’t scorching. The recipe indicates you can use an immersion blender to blend it, but I found the resulting purée to be much coarser than I would have liked because there is quite a large volume of aromatics. I transferred it to my upright blender and was much happier with the results. 

I really enjoyed this soup, but it was difficult to rank it among the others. It was just so different. As written, I think it should have been called Tomato-Fennel Soup. As someone who doesn’t love fennel, it isn’t overpowering, but it is definitely a discernible flavor. I did like the smoked paprika. It provided a background note that rounded things out nicely without being really strong. I also really loved the butter finish instead of cream. It provided richness without that stick-to-your-palate consistency you can sometimes get from heavy cream. This soup didn’t pair as well with the grilled cheese, but the olive oil-fried bread the recipe suggests was very nice for dipping.

The headnotes of the recipe do indicate flexibility with the aromatics, suggesting onion instead of shallot, or carrot for the fennel. I definitely think opting for the latter suggestion would give a much more classic tomato soup flavor with a little bit of background support from the spices. 

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

If You’re Making Bon Appetit’s Tomato Soup, a Few Tips

  1. The aromatics are flexible. Decide which flavor profile you’re going for before you start shopping and chopping. 
  2. Keep the heat low. Use low heat and stir the soup, scraping the bottom of the pot, every so often. The tomatoes have a tendency to scorch if you don’t keep an eye on it.
  3. Use a regular blender. While you can use an immersion blender, I found puréeing in an upright blender provided the best texture.

Overall rating: 6/10